Saturday, 31 March 2012

Disproportionate Stacey Ruling

21 year old student Liam Stacey got drunk on the day Fabrice Muamba collapsed and posted 'LOL. Fuck Muamba. He's dead!!!' on his Twitter account followed by vile racist comments as other tweeters hit back at him and has now been sent to jail for 56 days. Something feels excessive about this.
Now i don't condone Stacey conduct, it was reprehensible and appalling to publicly mock someone who was widely believed to be dying and he fully deserved punishment, but a custodial sentence seems too harsh when there was other options available to the judge.
A tough community sentence or even a suspended sentence with the judge ordering him to apologise to Muamba would probably have sufficed but now he has a criminal record, has been thrown off his University course and has had his life ruined all for being an offensive idiot.
Maybe i am in the minority and most people share the view of ex-footballer Stan Collymore who said that 'Seems to be a few who think that calling someone a W*g, ni***r or c**n and being arrested for it is an infringement of Freedom of Speech. Soppy liberal tree huggers. Don’t have a clue.'
Now i'm not trying to defend Stacey's freedom of speech, i think too many people hide behind that in order to cause offence, i'm saying that Stacey may have been a distasteful, odious moron after a few drinks but should his life have been ruined for it?
Stan Collymore of all people should know all about a few seconds of madness, that was his excuse when he punched and kicked his girlfriend in the head in a Paris Bar a few years ago. He also suggested that having had too much to drink may have been partly responsible for his shameful behaviour for which he escaped any jail time.
Not to excuse Stacey but fining the racist idiot, which he clearly is, should have been enough but jailing the student is disproportionate unless all Tweeters like this are now going to be pursued, then I would look back at this ruling as a first and very welcome step towards removing hatred from the internet.
At the moment, though, the sentence seems to be more of a knee jerk aimed to please those with the harsh views of Collymore than out of any strategy to fight online bigotry and maybe there should be some cause for concern because it isn't the soppy liberal tree huggers that are most likely to write racist abuse, it's idiots with right wing, bang 'em up views like the woman beating Collymore who perhaps should show some empathy for someone else's few seconds of drunken madness.


Anonymous said...

i think it is a complete violation of freedom of speech. i don't support any punishment implemented by the government.

the worled will not be free of racism until there are zero humans. we spend too much time, effort, and money trying to make the number zero.

in the u.s.a. the recent zimmerman martin thing is an example. every moment the vast majority of americans are working, sporting, shoping, dining, etc with people of other races with no racism issues. we are letting the tail wag the dog.

> do we still have racists? yes.
> are racists a minority? yes.
> can we improve still? yes.
> are people using the racism card to get attention? hell yes!
> was the martin killing a horror? hell yes! - so were all the other murders...
> did florida police act in racist manor? time will tell... maybe.

the question is, "how many resources will we spend on it?"

sounds like UK may be a little more aggressive than the USA on this...


Cheezy said...

Stacey was guilty of racially aggravated harassment, which is not a minor offence. And it's good he's getting a little bit of porridge, in order to let him - and the rest of society - know that a crime committed online (when you naively think you're anonymous) is still a crime, and basically no different to walking up to different races in the street and abusing them to their face. Nobody is saying that this should be legal, so why is it not the same when it's on Twitter? Answer: It is the same. People say 'what about freedom of speech?', but this right is not an absolute one and it never has been. It's always been balanced against other people's rights (including the right not to be the victim of racially aggravated harrassment).

"jailing the student is disproportionate unless all Tweeters like this are now going to be pursued"

I think you're forgetting that the law is also a normative tool, and not just a punitive one. This means that we don't have 'pursue' everyone who's done the same thing as the idiotic Liam Stacey, in order to make everything 'fair for everyone' (perfect fairness being unattainable anyway). Society doesn't have to do this to show it's disapproval of this type of behaviour.

Think of it this way: You don't complain about a speeding ticket because the two speeding cars ahead of you didn't get caught and the two speeding cars behind you didn't get caught either. It doesn't work like that. You got caught, so deal with it. The cops and the CPS act on complaints of criminal offences as their resources and operational decisions dictate. They can't go after everyone, even if they wanted to, but this doesn't mean they should go after no one.

We'll never eradicate racist abuse entirely, either from the internet or anywhere else, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't use idiots like Stacey to make potential abusers think twice about the consequences of their actions... hopefully before the 'bravery of being out of range' fills them up, and they start typing racist bullshit.

Lucy said...

As i said Cheezy, if this is the start of clamping down hard on racists idiots then i back it. If it is just a case of Stacey being jailed because his target was a footballer and the judge knew the case would be under the media spotlight and idiots like Collymore were watching, then it is worrying. The sentence should not depend upon who the target is and how much publicity the case gets.

Cheezy said...

Well, I doubt it's got anything to do with Stan Collymore's opinion. He doesn't even draw much water in the world of football these days, let alone within the justice system.

You raise a good point though. It's long been suspected that publicity and perceived public opinion can have a real impact upon sentencing decisions made by judges. Some regard it as a good thing (at least sometimes) that judges aren't completely divorced from what society as a whole thinks about certain crimes. I can see the positive side of this, but also the negative (such as when sentences become unreasonably disproportionate when compared to one another, or when the tabloid press is whipping up the nation into some irrational frenzy or other)...

In this particular case, the sentence might be at the upper end of what might be expected for the offence, but hopefully it can serve the same purpose as when 'exemplary' damages are awarded in tort i.e. a nice little demonstration to other 'keyboard field-marshals' out there that sometimes their big words can have big consequences... and hopefully it's also the point at which Mr Stacey takes a long hard look at himself and decides to turn his life around.

Lucy said...

Collymore was just a representative of the media, it was just that i had Collymores twitter feed here and he was easy to take a swipe at over the Ulrika thing and his own drunken moment of madness.
I also consider him a tosser of the highest order, i think it was either 606 or Talksport i heard him on and he dismissed any caller who disagreed with him with such contempt that i always get an itchy slapping hand whenever he is mentioned.

Cheezy said...

He certainly is a dickhead. Remember a few years ago when some Bath rugby players got 'itchy slapping hands' with him after he was an obnoxious drunk to some of their WAGs? Even a peaceful person such as yourself must have gotten a giggle out of that :)

Lucy said...

James Whale is another one. He went away for a while but he pops up on Sky News sometimes and it reminds me just what a horrible git he is.

Anonymous said...

Stan Collymore, as you rightly point out, is a hypocrite. He, of all people, should understand about second chances. He should be ashamed of himself.

This man is 21, for God's sake. He is also clearly immature for his age. That should have been taken into account.
Nobody convicted of a similar offence is given such a harsh sentence either. This was extraordinary. Unprecedented.

The judge was clearly influenced by the emotion surrounding the footballer, and that is unprofessional. He should not let his own feelings cause him to give a vindictive sentence.

I think speech laws are illiberal and should only be prosecuted when violence or threats are involved.
This was just a drunken immature idiot spouting offensive nonsense and insults.

Was anyway so badly threatened by it that it deserved a custodial sentence? Did it incite violence?

News about this case has gone around the world and we are now seen as a virtual police state.

Lucy said...

Whenever i have spoken to people about the Stacey case and however much we disagreed on the ruling, the common ground between us was that we all think Collymore is a dick.