Sentence excessive, unreasonable
Insults should not be a crime
Free speech includes the right to be offensive
London – 11 October 2012
“Barry Thew’s t-shirt was very offensive but in a free society the public should have the right to robustly criticise – and even insult – the police. His four month jail sentence is unreasonable. No one should be jailed for mere offensive words,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“On the day two police officers were murdered in Manchester, Mr Thew walked around the city wearing a t-shirt with the handwritten slogans “One less pig; perfect justice” and “Kill a cop 4 fun.com. Ha, haaa?”
“He seems an unpleasant character, with a long criminal history. It was insensitive and distressing for him to wear his anti-police t-shirt on the day two officers were gunned down. I empathise with the loved ones of the police who were killed. However, four months in prison is excessive for words that cause offence.
“The price of free speech is that we sometimes have to put up with views we find distasteful and objectionable.
“Insults are not nice and I would discourage them. But they should not be crimes.
“Mr Thew should have received some punishment; not because his words were offensive but because they were tantamount to incitement to murder – albeit at the less direct and serious end of the scale, given his mental health issues.
“I suspect Barry Thew may not have been sent to prison if he had insulted someone other than the police. He protested that his t-shirt had nothing to do with the slain Manchester police officers; saying it concerned other personal grievances that he has with the police, who he partly blames for the death of his young son.
“There is no evidence that his t-shirt was directed at the officers who were murdered. It referred to “one less pig”, not “two less pigs”. Moreover, he claims he was already wearing the t-shirt before the officers’ deaths became publicly known.
“A possible mitigating factor is his mental health issues and anti-psychotic medication, which may have affected his judgement about the wording and wearing of the t-shirt,” said Mr Tatchell.
See background to the Barry Thew story here: http://bit.ly/Ql7veW