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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.

mrsminerva Tue 09-Oct-12 10:28:39

No missy they should be shunned and avoided. Prison is expensive and over the top.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 09-Oct-12 10:32:40

YABU. If a newspaper published or radio station broadcast something similar we'd all be up in arms and demanding sackings. There are laws about libel, slander and inciting hatred/riots for good reason. The fact that it's easier to get irresponsible or offensive statements aired than ever before doesn't mean it's acceptable.

missymoomoomee Tue 09-Oct-12 10:39:35

I think there is a difference between making comments about people in general and actually naming real people though.

If someone said 'I'm going to beat up all 32yo women today' it is a far cry from 'I'm going to beat missy up today' iyswim.

If it was your child he was making sexually explicit comments about I don't think you would be telling people to just ignore him because prison is too expensive mrsm

Viviennemary Tue 09-Oct-12 10:41:59

I think a community service order would have been a far better punishment than being locked up. I don't know what his comments were and I don't really wish to know.

lurkedtoolong Tue 09-Oct-12 10:51:35

The comments (not jokes) were sick and unfunny, he is clearly an arsehole and I wouldn't want to be his friend or have anything to do with him.

But I'm more concerned that the same bench one the same day saw fit to sentence him to 12 weeks in prison in a stunning knee-jerk over-reaction while punishing a man who called a woman who just happened to be in the car next to him a "fucking black cunt" with a £100 fine.

No consistency and mob justice.

badtime Tue 09-Oct-12 11:11:46


This is a problem in the law, in that pre-internet legislation is being applied to internet communications, and leading to ridiculous sentences like this.

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Tue 09-Oct-12 11:12:30

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

The one I saw is a play on words using the fact that her name is a month of the year. While the meaning is sexual, it's not sexually explicit.

sookiesookie Tue 09-Oct-12 11:28:16

Yabu and comparing it to a worse crime doesn't make sense. The sentance for the 'worse' crime is wrong. That doesn't mean lesser crimes should have smaller sentences because one is wrong.

What he did was wrong, it doesn't matter if its on the internet or not. He was also trying to pretend his facebook had Facebook hacked. So he k ew he was wrong straight away. He had come up with an 'alibi' because he knew it would offend and upset people. He had already planned to do it then claim fb hacking.

He purposely did it to upset people. Turns put he did and he need to face the consequences.

FiercePanda Tue 09-Oct-12 11:36:36

YANBU. It's a disproportionate sentence and he's only been jailed because April's murder is still a headline news item. If this was a year on, no-one would have batted an eyelid - certainly not enough to report him to the police and have him jailed.

Jailing someone for being an insulting arsehole online is a very slippery slope - given how many of us chat shit nonsense on here on a drunken Friday, should we also be expecting a knock on the door from the police?

What he said is disgusting and not amusing in any sense of the word, but I don't believe for a second being a bit of a tool is a jailable offence.


I doubt this would have happened had a professional comedian made the jokes.

bradbourne Tue 09-Oct-12 11:53:07


If people can be jailed for saying what are deemed to be the ‘wrong’ things, no matter how vile, then free speech - the most fundamental of our democratic freedoms - no longer exists in the UK. We find ourselves in the situation where the state, in the form of court judges, has now apparently been permitted to become the arbiter of the boundaries of what can or cannot be said.

Certainly, we should all think before we tweet (and speak). But we should not have to factor into this consideration whether or not we will be incarcerated by the state as a result. Cases such as this show that such considerations do now have to be made.

Kalisi Tue 09-Oct-12 12:01:18

His friends could have disowned him, strangers could have PM'd him to say how vile he was, facebook could have shut him down, his job could have sacked him for publishing views that were counterproductive to the company. All these are reasonable responces that we currently have the power to make without threatening our right to free speech by bringing the law into it.

missymoomoomee Tue 09-Oct-12 12:17:07

Sexually explicit remarks about 2 children who he named are nothing to do with freedom of speech.

As I said upthread if someone made a sexual comment and NAMED your child then you wouldn't brush it off as free speech.

adeucalione Tue 09-Oct-12 12:20:42


If you commit a crime, you should expect to be arrested for it - it is an offence to 'send a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing in character', and that's just what he did.

Sure lots of people get away with this stuff because it goes unreported, but he offended enough people that the crime was reported and the police acted.

Of course the CPS can't prosecute everyone who FBs something offensive, they have to make a judgement on the degree of seriousness, and presumably that is what they did here (I haven't read his comments).

As I understand it the DPP is in the process of drawing up guidelines right now, before public comment next month; maybe the outcome of that will be a more transparent framework.

vjg13 Tue 09-Oct-12 12:28:13


If someone made a similar 'joke' in public most people would just tell them to shut up. I can't see why this kind of thing can't just be moderated by Facebook banning the user.

mrsminerva Tue 09-Oct-12 13:19:59

missy I would ignore it but would also have a word with him and make sure everyone in my community and his family knew what a twat he was.

DuelingFanjo Tue 09-Oct-12 13:23:55

OP YANBU - this is totally disproportionate. I think people like the guy who seems to do it for a living on twitter (He had a go at Gary barlow and promoted anorexia) should be dealt with some-way - maybe some kind of restriction to internet access (Hit them where it hurts) but sending them to prison is just stupid.

and... in this case it wasn't that he posted on someone elses facebook, he posted it on his own and some twat did a screen grab and posted it onto an April Jones site (IIRC) so who was the bigger twat there? the writer or the messenger. FFS.

DuelingFanjo Tue 09-Oct-12 13:25:45

"But I'm more concerned that the same bench one the same day saw fit to sentence him to 12 weeks in prison in a stunning knee-jerk over-reaction while punishing a man who called a woman who just happened to be in the car next to him a "fucking black cunt" with a £100 fine."

jesus, how can we have any faith in the criminal justice system with this kind of twattery going on ffs?

Kalisi Tue 09-Oct-12 13:49:59

Big brother is watching you. Just the beginning I'm afraid sad

missymoomoomee Tue 09-Oct-12 14:27:24

What if someone made an explicit sexual remark to your child mrsm ? What would you do in that circumstance?

Where is the line drawn between freedom of speech and illegal behaviour?

Personally I think it goes from being a twat with a sick taste in jokes to illegal when he brought the girls names into it.

I do agree that sentencing is disproportionate though, however I think that other sentences should be tougher rather than make his one lighter.

somedayma Tue 09-Oct-12 16:38:29

YADDDDDDDDNBU. I'm sick of all these fucking morons who scream "BRING BACK HANGING" for whatever crimes they've just read about in the daily mail. This is a (v) scaled down version of that. Freedom of speech is A Good Thing.

MumsGoToReykjavik Tue 09-Oct-12 16:48:20

Nothing was done about the 50 strong mob who turned up outside his house. Some carrying baseball bats and pool cues. They were dispersed by the police but nobody was arrested. If he had been there I have no doubt he would have been attacked.

jeanvaljean Tue 09-Oct-12 16:53:52

OP YANBU. The spate of prosecutions and jail sentences for idiots posting stupid things on the Internet is extremely worrying. There is no right to not be offended. The correct response to this type of behaviour is to roll your eyes and ignore it. A court case and jail time just shows what an absurd country we have become. Our forefathers who fought for freedom of speech would spin in their graves.

missymoomoomee Tue 09-Oct-12 17:06:39

Freedom of speech? Does that mean we can all go about being racist, sexist, homophobic and disablist then?

We can't all say what we like with no consequence.

He did not just pass on a few bad jokes. If he had been jailed for that then I would be agreeing with the majority here. He made explicit sexual comments about 2 children.

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Tue 09-Oct-12 17:12:19

No, not explicit sexual comments. He made a joking reference to child sex abuse, which most people would not find amusing (but then most people would not find jokes about mongs, or whatever else the likes of Ricky Gervais like to spout off about either), but it's not explicit sexual comments, just bad jokes.

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