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to think they need to stop locking people up for facebook/twitter/whatever posts

(88 Posts)
SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Tue 09-Oct-12 00:46:07

Matthew Woods has just started a 12 week sentence in a Young Offenders Institute for some jokes on his Facebook page about missing five-year-old April Jones.

I think this sentence is absolutely obscene.

Obviously the jokes in question might be unfunny, they might be tasteless, but ultimately this is just some arsehole on Facebook with a hundred or so 'friends'.

I'm not going to reveal what he apparently said because it seems it's criminal to even make a bad joke now, but suffice to say you can find it online with a little effort.

There is a website, sickipedia, which contains many thousands of jokes of similar degree of offence. Some people will find them horrible, some hilarious, but I don't see how someone on Facebook in Chorley, can be said to be 'harassing' or whatever a family in Powys.

The internet is full of sick and offensive stuff, e.g., this man had one million child pornography images including level five (which means sadism or bestiality involving children) images, and got NO jail time.

We are not about to stop people being macabre, tasteless, or anything else.

So why the hell are we locking people up on the basis of selective moral outrage (the Twitter 'bomb threat' was prosecuted on the basis of the cause du jour terrorism, another Twitter user was prosecuted because the footballer he targeted was all over The Sun with 'pray for Muamba' headlines, etc.)?

Lots of things people will find very offensive, rape jokes, for example, but they are not going to lock people for that are they. People such as Frankie Boyle make offensive jokes that offend far more people than just a couple of hundred Facebook 'friends', and the line between offensive joke and criminal is far from clear.

Kalisi Tue 09-Oct-12 07:36:26

Noone has the right not to be offended. When it's a personal vile attack to the person in question ( most of the twitter instances) then yes I can see how they can get done for harrassment etc. A vile joke on facebook though? That's not a crime. The guys a prick who doesn't deserve friends but we don't need the police to help us defriend him! I would just take it as a personal lesson that I need to pick more carefully.

JeezyOrangePips Tue 09-Oct-12 07:36:35

Meditrina, there's a bigger issue here.

If people can get locked up for posting things others don't like, well - where does it stop? What is deemed too offensive?

People protest in this country against human rights offences in other countries when people get locked up because they said things that the government didn't like. So how do we make sure that we don't end up in the same place?

It should not be punishable by jail. Sure, if they want to, give him a community service order or a fine etc. But jail? For jokes that were in very poor taste?

TandB Tue 09-Oct-12 07:51:24

I am really, really surprised he was actually prosecuted and imprisoned for this. If he had been publishing the comments on the facebook page of someone directly involved in the situation I could absolutely understand it, but people write vile, offensive things on social media all the time and it never goes anywhere unless it is part and parcel of a campaign of harassment or similar.

I can only assume that the comments were in some way potentially damaging to April's family (beyond distressing obviously). If they contained a suggestion that it was the family's fault or something like that then I can just about see why he was prosecuted, but other than that I am struggling.

As a criminal lawyer I have been involved in a lot of cases where there is an online element, but it is incredibly rare for purely online comments to be prosecuted. The ones that are tend to be incitements to some sort of criminal conduct, or terrorism threats. Personal opinions/jokes, no matter how offensive, tend to be ignored.

I think this is a rather alarming turn of events to be honest. Where is the line to be drawn? Will someone using black humour to make a point be prosecuted? Will the public outcry be used to guage whether something should be prosecuted? Very worrying.

LadyDianaSpencer Tue 09-Oct-12 07:55:05


maddening Tue 09-Oct-12 08:02:54

Yanbu it is totally out of proportion

dexter73 Tue 09-Oct-12 08:07:10

I agree yanbu.

BeyondLimitsOfTheLivingDead Tue 09-Oct-12 08:11:24

Yanbu. As kungfu said, I could understand it if he had gone out and purposely written it to the family or on one of the awful public grief pages, but on his own news feed, it seems rather OTT. Yes arrest and charge, that is fine, but a custodial sentence!! shock
Seems to have been influenced way too much by public opinion on what it was about, rather than the fact that it was offensive.

And if he got the joke from sickipedia, are the site owners going to be prosecuted and locked up too?

LFCisTarkaDahl Tue 09-Oct-12 08:11:57


Tasteless, disgusting, and a twat but ludicrous to jail him and this makes the society less 'free'.

What should happen is all his mates should delete him from facebook after calling him a sick twat. Deprive him of the oxygen of attention in his social circle.

BeyondLimitsOfTheLivingDead Tue 09-Oct-12 08:12:30

I'll warn my BIL, he likes to post sickidedia jokes on his fb...

LFCisTarkaDahl Tue 09-Oct-12 08:13:55

we didn't have Twitter/Facebook when Diana died in 97 - can you imagine the jokes about that and the public outcry if people had been prosecuted for them.

I heard a dead Diana joke in 20 minutes of her being dead.

BeyondLimitsOfTheLivingDead Tue 09-Oct-12 08:20:53

I had a michael jackson joke text before I'd even heard he was dead!

There are a lot of people comparing it to racism and saying "well if someone writes a racist comment they are proscuted" - surely the difference there is that inciting racial hatred is actually illegal though? confused

mrsminerva Tue 09-Oct-12 08:21:32

Skippy I agree with you. The guy is a total arsehole but I would prefer our jails to be filled with the violent criminal types who seem to get off with community service/fines quite regularly.

mamalovesmojitos Tue 09-Oct-12 08:22:58

YANBU. He's obviously a heartless little shit but the sentencing was all wrong. The government clamping down on free speech is much more scary than a dark 'joke'.

Trills Tue 09-Oct-12 08:23:04

In that case should "they" stop locking people up for talking or making phone calls or writing letters?

Whether something is a crime depends on what they say, not necessarily the medium they use to say it.

Trills Tue 09-Oct-12 08:26:33

That's in reply to the general concept.

I agree that someone making a private joke to friends should not be in prison for it, but whether it was on Facebook or down the pub is irrelevant, you are complaining about the wrong thing. If you use Facebook to harass someone or go up to them in the pub, that's wrong. If you talk to just your friends on Facebook (or talk about them when they are in a different pub) then that's a different thing.

sudaname Tue 09-Oct-12 08:27:02

l think it is a very slippery slope. Society - or in a free democratic society at least - should be able to police itself to a reasonable degree. For example Frankie Boyle , if everybody boycotted his shows and tv appearances , then he wouldnt be up there spouting his bile for long. Trouble is many people share his sense of humour obviously or this would have already happened , which brings us right back to being a free society argument. These people on Facebook , if they got defriended by all thir 'friends' on there or totally ignored they would have to think about what they were saying to have a future on there. But again, if they are getting attention from like minded people , or in some cases any kind of attention , then they will carry on.

Valdeeves Tue 09-Oct-12 08:27:18

I think a fortnight in prison not twelve weeks - did you say he's 20? Barely out of his teens? 12 weeks in prison will make him a bigger arsehole.
If it was my child I'd want some action but I totally agree with freedom of speech. Sometimes people seem to be made "an example of" - like the riots.

Valdeeves Tue 09-Oct-12 08:33:09

Cyber bullying must be cracked down on though and I think this is a strong message for the future. The Internet makes comments like this viral.

Kalisi Tue 09-Oct-12 08:35:33

I actually find this extremely disturbing! There are many many people that say offensive things on a daily basis. The incident in question could not be seen as harrassment or anything other than a joke of incredibly bad taste. It should be Facebooks issue. If the law can get involved then wow! We are all in very big trouble. I myself am guilty of sharing a Whitney Houston joke when she died. Looks like I'm next!!

ginmakesitallok Tue 09-Oct-12 08:39:20

agree totally with OP. People seem to be getting locked up for being twats, being a twat is not illegal.

dexter73 Tue 09-Oct-12 08:41:05

Cyber bullying is completely different to making bad jokes though.

LtEveDallas Tue 09-Oct-12 08:44:31

It does seem a very harsh sentence for what he actually did. I've got no sympathy for him, and of course he wont actually serve 12 weeks, but it does seem disproportionate.

I wonder if there was more to it? Had he been 'done' for something else previously. If he was Bound Over for a similar offence it would make more sense.

LilyCocoplatt Tue 09-Oct-12 09:39:53

YANBU, it doesn't make sense that someone gets jail time for comments on facebook when there are real criminals out walking the streets and nobody seems to give a fuck. The internet is full of tasteless jokes, over the last few days I have seen a few Jimmy Saville ones on facebook, nobody is calling for the publishers of them to be jailed. I could understand it if it crossed the line into a personal hate campaign against someone, physical threats against them etc but I think 12 weeks jail for repeating a couple of things lifted from sikipedia is frankly a waste of the justice system's time, a warning would have been sufficient for a first offence.

EmBOOsa Tue 09-Oct-12 10:07:35

I don't know about this, all I can find through googling are his "jokes" and then references to the fact he made further comments of a sexual nature.

If it is just jokes and they are not directly targeted at the family/friends of April then YANBU

But if it's more than that then it's a bit more of a grey area

missymoomoomee Tue 09-Oct-12 10:09:55

I believe some of his comments were of a sexually explicit nature. Anyone making sexually explicit comments about a child should be jailed imo.

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