Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday 15 June 2007

It begins - steps to 'muzzle' the blogosphere in Scotland

(Please see UPDATE at end)

A former supermarket worker (for Morrisons in Falkirk) has been found guilty at Falkirk Sheriff Court of "committing a racially-aggravated breach of the peace between June 2005 and 16 January, 2006" as a result of material he published in his blog (which I have never seen and do not know the URL for). Sentence on Andrew Love, 22, an economic graduate, has been deferred for a social background report and an assessment of his suitability to perform community service as a possible direct alternative to a jail sentence; he was released on bail pending sentencing.

Apparently his blog contained items which were found to be objectionnable and also denigrated people based on disablement, homosexuality or being Muslims as well as being black. However there is no law to prevent someone insulting someone else for disability, homosexuality of being a Muslim, so the only law that could be used to 'get' and 'silence' this person relates to his insults directed at black people. Only the 'laws of good taste' are inhibitors for these other things.

It is difficult to take a definitive view of what is really going on here without knowing what the content on the blog included, but one wonders if this whole episode is not merely a mechanism by [yet another] employer, in this case Morrisons, to silence the online writings of an employee when these might become commercially negative to the company. There is a clear danger here that laws against racial discrimination (which I support - the laws that is, not the racial discrimination, just to make it clear!) are being called into service to limit freedom of speech on matters which the court has no business commenting on, as the law stands at present.

I speak as a gay man of course, but I would rather allow people the freedom to voice whatever negative thoughts they may have about homosexuality than add yet one more item to the list of things which one is not permitted, by law, to talk about. I'm afraid my basic view of this whole topic is the old childhood nursery rhyme: 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me'! Provided there are laws in place to protect people from material or physical harm because other people happen not to like something about them, then I shall be content. If we're not careful we'll soon hardly be able to open our mouths for fear of causing 'emotional distress' to someone. The immature ramblings of this young man must not become an excuse to muzzle freedom of speech.

(thru Pete at West Brom Blog)

UPDATE: (Saturday 16JUN07 0906 BST) There is a comment posted by Mark Kerr, the person in the supermarket who brought the action. I have posted a further comment in the light of this. No doubt it will become clearer in due course the effect this case will have on 'freedom of speech' if any; I await sentencing of Mr Love with interest.

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