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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Offensive Public Electronic Communications

A 19 year old man has been sent to prison for three months for posting offensive comments on Facebook about the missing girls, April Jones and Madeleine McCann. Now, I haven't read his comments, nor do I wish to. The Guardian offers an insight into what was posted, and it sounds pretty repugnant, but should he be in prison?
A couple of points strike me about this story, the first being the staggering speed with which this case was tried. Normally the justice system moves at little above glacial pace, and yet Mr Woods has been imprisoned within just a few days of the committing of the offence.
The second point is the disparity in the dispensing of judicial sentences. Let's face it, there are a lot of people out there who have committed serious offences, even violent crimes, who have escaped custodial sentences.
We have comedians working in this country who regularly push the limits of decency in their acts, seemingly striving to shock and even appall their audiences in order to secure career success. With that in mind, should this young man, albeit clearly a small-minded individual lacking in common decency and sense, have been jailed?
This is my public forum, my equivalent of a Facebook page. I'm mindful of my audience, and I hope I'm never offensive, I would certainly never wish to be, but I find myself this morning wondering if having a public forum is wise. After all, as a people we have never been quicker to offend. As careful as I am about what I write, I may inadvertently offend someone in a way I hadn't considered possible. And I'm really not sure I'd do too well in prison.

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