Sunday, 14 March 2010

Think Happy Thoughts.... or Else

Some of us old enough might remember an episode of the Twighlight Zone, where a couple were parents of a small boy who had limitless power. They always had to treat the boy well and smile all the time otherwise nasty things would befall them.

Well, such a thing might happen to the internet: we may all be forced to say happy things, without a word of ire or spite in  our blogs, posts and twitterings. Have a look at the legal case noted here on the Lawyer website.

Does anyone esle think it a bit too "catch-all" a provision? I do. The lawyer article calls it a "mopping-up" law, and in the case of Paul Chambers, it can be seen as such: he couldn't be prosecuted for a non-existant bomb hoax, so instead the CPS resort to section 127 of the Communications Act to get their prosecution, thanks to its wider remit.

Just look at the width of that remit and look at some of the messages you've seen on the internet. I'd say a fair proportion of them fall foul of the wording of section 127:

"(1)            A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)           sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
(b)           causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2)           A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—
(a)           sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,
(b)           causes such a message to be sent; or
(c)           persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.
(3)           A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both."

Haven't we all at one time or another been offended or annoyed by some sort of fuckwittery on the 'net? Haven't we all been inconvenienced by spam emails? Some might consider the extreme porn on the internet to be grossly offensive. I haven't even touched on the likes of Facebook, where hundreds of transgressions of section 127 occur every day. Maybe people using it and other similar sites need to wise up to the fact that social networking sites are public domains and anything you say (even something ever so slightly offensive) may be taken down and used in evidence by the Police, especially if they have a point to prove.

Like I say, this wide-ranging law, laid dormant for so long has now been used by the Police for a message made on a social networking site. The lid on Pandoras box has been opened.

All I'm saying is be aware from now on what you say on the 'net and how it could be perceived by a third party. Say happy things from now on people, or else.....

One thing I would say is that Paul Chambers' case brings back memories of the Paul Clarke shotgun case, where it was never in the public interest to prosectute. Instead the prosecution could be deemed a malicious one.

Keir Starmer's CPS have a lot to answer for in both these cases, aparrently promoting malicious use of the law.

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