Wednesday 23 October 2019

UK courts make martyrs out of morons

Paul Golding (R) and Jayda Fransen
Paul Golding (R) and Jayda Fransen
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Of all the stupid, needless, infuriating things that Donald Trump has done since he took office - and there have been a few - retweeting some fake videos by the Britain First group stands out.

Britain First seems to appeal to the kind of people who find the BNP too cerebral for their tastes.

Led by Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding (above), they are so barkingly bonkers that part of me suspected they were plants by the British security services to make anyone with concerns over immigration look like bigots.

But no, they are just bigots. And now they're in jail.

Fransen and Golding received a combined total of 54 weeks in the slammer after being convicted of "religiously aggravated harassment".

They had targeted several Muslim men they wrongly suspected of being involved in a paedophile sex ring.

They gathered outside the houses to shout abuse, screamed in the letter boxes and behaved in an appalling manner which unquestionably deserves jail time.

But, while nobody will shed any tears for these clowns, the verdict is also concerning in other ways.

What should have been about a breach of the peace and harassment of innocent people ended up being a trial about their views, with the prosecution arguing that they had "expressed hostility towards Islam".

So what?

Their behaviour was enough to warrant a custodial sentence, their thoughts aren't.

It's easy to applaud the sentence because they're such a spectacularly awful bunch of people, but that's not how justice should work in a free society.

This is where the whole problem with hate crime legislation comes to the fore.

They had committed crimes. They had broken the law and deserved to be punished. But to accuse them of "hostility" towards Islam, as if that was illegal, shows how dangerous political prosecutions can be.

Plenty of people in this country express "hostility" towards the Catholic Church. If they go around and hassle a priest in a similar manner, they should go to jail.

But would we be happy for an extended sentence because of the "hostility" expressed towards Catholicism? How about Scientology? That's as valid as any established religion - in the sense that it's nonsense - but I can't imagine any court in taking a Scientologist's faith into account if they were the victim of such actions. It certainly wouldn't be seen as an aggravating factor. Yet again, the courts have made martyrs out of molehills.

Your actions can be criminal. But never your thoughts.

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