Free Speech Row Erupts After Police Arrest Man for Writing ‘Offensive Tweet’ About Captain Tom

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: A mural of Captain Sir Tom Moore, by artist Robert Newbiggin, adorns a wall on February 03, 2021 in Southport, England. WWII veteran, Sir Tom had raised nearly £33 million for NHS charities ahead of his 100th birthday last year by walking laps of his …
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Scottish police have charged a man for writing an “offensive tweet” about Sir Captain Tom Moore, following his death. The arrest has sparked a row over the increasingly restrictive limits on freedom of speech in the British home nation.

In a statement released on Monday, the Lanarkshire Police said: “On Friday, 5 February, we received a report of an offensive tweet about Sir Captain Tom Moore who died on Tuesday, 2 February.

“A 35-year-old man has been charged in connection with communication offences and is due to appear at Lanark Sheriff Court on Wednesday, 17 February.”

Sir Tom, rose to national prominence this year after the 100-year-old British war hero rose money for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Daily Mail claimed that the tweet in question said: “The only good Brit soldier is a deed one, burn auld fella, buuuuurn.”

The founder of the anti-censorship political party, Reclaim, British actor Laurence Fox, condemned the arrest on the grounds of freedom of speech, writing on social media: “The police should be free to do their jobs, which is investigate actual crime, not arresting idiots who tweet idiotic things.”

“Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of any open society. Protect it, even if you don’t like or agree with it,” Fox added.

Politics lecturer Adrian Hilton wrote: “I think this is insensitive and offensive, but if it merits arrest, what is the statute of limitations because I know quite a few who still hold this view of Reformation martyrs,” adding: “We have a right to be ‘offensive’, and that’s a high bar.”

Scottish YouTuber and comedian, Mark Meechan — more commonly known by his online persona Count Dankula — also criticised the arrest of the Twitter user.

Mr Meechan said that while the alleged post in question was “far from a nice thing to say,” but added that it “absolutely should not be a criminal offence.”

The arrest comes as the leftist-separatist ruling Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) is attempting to pass the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, which “seeks to modernise and extend existing hate crime legislation”.

The bill would criminalise posts online which are deemed to fall under the vague “stirring up hatred” classification.

In an interview with Breitbart London last year, Mr Meechan said that the proposed hate speech law would criminalise “jokes and memes“, saying: “This bill literally violates human rights, and if the SNP allow this to pass it will absolutely destroy any claims they have made in being an honest and fair government.”

Meechan has become a prominent free speech campaigner in Scotland after he was found guilty of committing a “hate crime” after he filmed girlfriend’s dog doing a Nazi salute 2018. He argued he was creating the comedy by subverting the cuteness of the dog and playing up his girlfriend’s negative reaction for laughs.

Another leading critic of the proposed hate crime legislation, Thomas Ross QC, said: “If the Scottish Government is going to create an offence that can be committed unintentionally, drafters of the legislation have to make the essentials of the offence crystal clear. They’ve failed to do that.”

“The language used in the Bill is so difficult to understand that it will be impossible for the man or woman in the street to know when the line is likely to be crossed,” Mr Ross added.

Scotland’s justice secretary, Humza Yousaf — the driving force behind the bill — has previously denied that the hate crime bill will limit free speech, telling BBC Scotland in July: “I don’t accept that this curtails free speech at all. Free speech in itself is never an unfettered right.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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