Britain’s police have stumbled into another public relations disaster after threatening to track down and prosecute Facebook users for ridiculing them.
West Yorkshire Police were derided by social media users after sharing a picture of a drugs bust on their Wakefield Rural page. The haul involved a comically small quantity of cannabis, MailOnline reports.
“Wow that’s put a dent in the war on drugs lol” commented one user sarcastically.
“Hope you manage to nail Pablo Escobar this afternoon” added another.
The police force did not see the funny side of the criticism, however, issuing a statement advising that it had banned a number of people from its Facebook page and would track down and pursue prosecutions against anyone being “insulting, abusive, or offensive”.
“Unfortunately we have had to ban a number of people from using this page today,” the statement began.
“I would like to remind everyone that this is a Police page and whatever your thoughts on one of my officers seizing drugs in the community, being insulting, abusive or offensive can and will result in a prosecution under the Malicious Communications Act 1988.”
— Release Drugs (@Release_drugs) May 11, 2018
British police forces have been under fire for some time due to certain elements appearing to be focused on punishing people for so-called ‘hate speech’ and causing ‘gross offence’ — at a time when violent crime, child sexual exploitation, and radical Islamic terrorism are all on the rise.
The most well-known case of this sort recently involves YouTube comedian Mark Meechan — better known as Count Dankula — who was convicted by a Scottish court for teaching his pug dog to raise its paw in response to the command “Sieg Heil” and causing ‘gross offence’.
However, Freedom of Information requests answered by 29 police forces revealed that some 3,395 people were arrested under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 — which makes it illegal to intentionally “cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another” — in 2016, with some forces increasing their number arrests for such ‘crimes’ by as much as 844 per cent.
More recently, police in Northumbria tracked down and threatened Facebook users who made disparaging comments about Muslim grooming gangs — but stopped short of arresting them — and warned “do not post anything which could be considered offensive” in a public statement.
The Government rejected a petition for a Free Speech Act which would put a stop to such tactics in January.