Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not Worth It

Once again the police blunder in to arrest the alleged sender of an abusive message on the Web, this time to Tom Daley.

The culprit will no doubt turn out to be a sad and onanistic youth who sits at his lonely keyboard, composing pathetic and unimaginative abuse to send to whomever has recently caught his eye. It is axiomatic that people will send stuff through a modem that they would not dream of saying to someone's face. Even on a relatively serious-minded blog such as this some people feel the need to post bitterly abusive comments; I suspect that many of these people have an unrealistic view of who magistrates are and what they do, and take the opportunity to go Yah-boo from a safe distance. The police call these people 'hundred-yard heroes' because they are happy to hurl insults at the Old Bill, but only with the security of a head start.

In modern Britain virulently abusive language is common, and not just at football matches, but the sensible approach is to ignore it a far as possible. The airport bomb-hoax case that has just concluded should serve as a warning to any prosecutor or detective who fancies chancing his arm to keep the phrase 'It's only the Internet' close to the front of his mind. To do otherwise risks at best using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and in the worst case makes the police and prosecution look very silly.

Just a small thought - isn't it nice that the chap in the Daley story is 'helping police with their enquiries'? I thought that had gone the way of blunt instruments.

53 comments:

  1. Anonymous John31 July 2012 10:08

    I can't even see "You let your dad down i hope you know that." as abusive or malicious, merely hurtful. The police can't be that understaffed if they can spend time on this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. do we know it wasn't his dad who posted it?

      Delete
    2. Well, his dad died last year, from what I understand. Which casts the tweet in a much mroe unpleasant light.

      I understand that additional tweets also included threats to kill. Apparently no longer a problem if they are only on the internet.

      Delete
    3. yes, there were threats to kill Daley, also racist and threatening messages to various other people who, presumably, are not in the public eye.

      Delete
  2. There is a political party page that I follow on Facebook, as I support the party. The comments left on the site consist almost entirely of of abusive remarks about everything to do with their hatred of the party, whether or not it features in the specific post. They just rehash the same things over and over again.
    What I can't get my head round is how they manage to spend quite so many hours waiting impatiently for a new post so that they can hurl the same old abuse all over again.
    Sad lives some people lead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If being a foul twitter in a squalid little room is a displacement activity for vandalism, unruly behaviour, or even violence, on the streets then let them lead that sad life, I reckon.

      Who needs tweets anyway ?

      Delete
  3. Insensitive,hurtful, improper and rude- not sure about anything else. What should happen is the responsible moron should be exposed by the Sun and held up for the idiot he is. I'm not sure the police have any useful role.

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  4. I believe the difference is that in this case the message was sent to Tom, rather than posted in an open forum about Tom.


    I guess it’s similar to a racist joke merely being in bad taste when posted on a joke forum, but the same joke could be considered some sort of hate crime if it was sent directly to a person of the ethnicity targeted.

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  5. I still think NFA would have been best. Anything more only encourages them.

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  6. I have no strong feelings either way about idiots on twitter or facebook but you need to read everything that this idiot wrote,not just the Daily Mail soundbite.
    Jaded

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  7. Yes. The reason this particular delightful chap was arrested wasn't the initial "you let your dad down", but the subsequent personal death threats.

    (which, it goes without saying, are very different from making a surreal joke about blowing up a place because you're annoyed it's closed.)

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  8. Being part Brit, I can only re-use a phrase oft heard in USA about the British People.

    'Don't improve yourself, drag everyone else down.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ed (not Bystander)31 July 2012 17:58

      I take it this is based on the keen insight USAans have into the mentality of other nations? It is to laugh.

      Delete
    2. Well it is a country where about half the population believe (or claim to believe) the planet they're standing on is less than 10,000 years old and was created more or less as it is now.

      (Also, if you've never seen Fox News, watch a few clips online, always good for a laugh and they'll give you a much greater appreciation for BBC News)

      Delete
    3. Also their world map puts USA in the middle and slices Russia in half.

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    4. I have never heard that said in the USA.

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    5. @VBW: That's a bit of a parochial statement. It is not uncommon for a country to place its own longitude about half way across its version of a world map, adjusting to accomodate intact land masses as best as possible. Recommend some examples by Googling 'Japanese map of the world', or 'Australian map of the world' (some of which humourously even have north to the bottom of the map). It is simply that for the US, Canada, and any other American country to do so, one has to divide Asia because it occupies so many degrees of longitude including reaching almost to the pole.

      Incidentally, you should note that the typical Mercator projection also exaggerates the size of small, historically maritime European countries such as the UK, Netherlands, Iceland, etc., at the expense of countries nearer to the equator (e.g.,the USA), regardless of where the international date line may be placed.

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  9. As usual, the media coverage isn't giving anything like the full story.As has been stated above, he followed his original message up with a death threat against Daley. What's more, his twitter stream consists largely of extremely unpleasant, racist, sexist abuse with many threats of serious violence (e.g. "I'm going to kick your pregnant mother in the stomach so that she loses her baby"). Given the very specific and explicit nature of a lot of his threats I think the police would be negligent if they didn't at least look into this to see if he was likely to carry any of them out.

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  10. See: Online disinhibitation effect

    There's a ruder expression for it involving the F word!

    ReplyDelete
  11. ginnersinner31 July 2012 20:06

    If you have a read through his tweets before, there are plenty of other tweets in the same vein. Taken together, they could provide a much stronger case. It is likely true that the Daley comment alone is not sufficient, but there's some very abusive stuff on there.

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  12. Not Long Now31 July 2012 21:40

    Here we go again.... another anti-police post by Bystander, which he will no doubt seek to later deny. Was it necessary to say that the police "blunder in"? I only know what I've seen in a small number of online media outlets about this matter, and not as much as some commentaters above seem to... do you have more comprehensive information Bystander?

    I'd also be a bit more careful about using the airport bomb hoax tweet case as a tool to bash the police & CPS..... as I understand it magistrates originlly convicted Mr Chambers, then a Crown Ct upheld it and it was only the appeal court that allowed the appeal. Doesn't seem to me like many parts of the CJS came out of the episode looking good.

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    Replies
    1. Ed (not Bystander)1 August 2012 00:02

      BS did say: Even on a relatively serious-minded blog such as this some people feel the need to post bitterly abusive comments; I suspect that many of these people have an unrealistic view of who magistrates are and what they do, and take the opportunity to go Yah-boo from a safe distance.

      Please stop your bitterly abusive comments, or you will be censored.

      Delete
    2. Phil*

      On the same day that PC Dibell was cremated after 'blundering in'. RIP.

      I would have hoped for an apparent magistrate to get their facts right before posting poorly reported facts from dodgy sources.

      Damned if they do and damned if they don't with only sneering from the likes of you.

      You sir have committed the same offence as the ignorant tweeter. IMO.

      Delete
  13. As a serving PC - to be fair to the officers involved. If a PC was allocated a job about an offence even vaguely involved in the Olympics and decided NOT to do anything, he or she would be a in a great deal of trouble and have to work very hard to justify their decision. Senior officers are all over any thing which might affect the games or generate a negative press story. Whether it's in the public interest to prosecute doesn't seem to matter if it's Olympic related.

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    Replies
    1. Ed (not Bystander)1 August 2012 00:03

      to be fair to the officers involved

      That's your second mistake. Your first was bothering to point out any unfairness.

      Delete
  14. Pretty pathetic BS, using this poorly reported story to have a pop at those nasty police who fail to appreciate all you do for your own self importance.
    And do you not see the irony of having a go at these 'hundred yard heroes' from your, 100 yard high, anonymous ivory tower?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous John1 August 2012 10:10

      Well even the police don't seem happy about it. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2181851/We-control-Twitter-insist-police-Storm-arrest-17-year-old-offensive-tweets-Tom-Daley.html
      "Police admitted last night that they are being dragged into too many Twitter disputes"
      Daley didn't report it to the police, but a member of the public. If Daley didn't regard it as a credible death threat, why should the police investigate?

      Delete
    2. The police are damned if they do and damned if they don't. If someone starts making death threats and the police do nothing who do you think will be castigated should those threats be carried out? This applies whether the 'victim' was aware of the threats or takes them seriously or not.

      We live in a society where the police are to blame for not rescuing the occupants of a car smothered in thousands of tonnes of landslide.

      Most police officers will tell you they are wasting time dealing with stupid spats on Facebook and Twitter. In nearly all cases the police shouldn't be involved, but liberalism has meant we have a nanny mentality that renders society incapable of dealing with it's problems. Authorities have responsibility for everything. Individuals have little or no responsibility any longer.

      You cannot continually blame the police for failing to take action and then criticise them when they do. Common sense has gone out of the window. Filling in the paperwork, ticking the boxes and arse covering is what our society has sunk to. You get the police you deserve and they haven't got anywhere near as bad as society deserves yet, but it is coming.

      Delete
    3. @Anonymous John - you said "If Daley didn't regard it as a credible death threat, why should the police investigate?"

      It's possible Daley didn't see the death threat. The 'you let down your dad' tween came first. It's likely that he blocked the sender after that, which would mean he would not see later tweets.
      It's also possible he didn't see it due ot the number of followers he has - over 1 million - anyone with that numberof followers will get a LOT of tweets - they are only ever ging to see a proportion of them.

      Delete
  15. Actually I would say that the police are immeasurably better than society deserves, but no doubt that makes me biased.

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    Replies
    1. Ed (not Bystander)1 August 2012 17:41

      Your anti-Bystander bias is noted, citizen.

      Delete
    2. payasoru - That is what I said. If it all gets privatised then others will appreciate what they had.

      Delete
  16. Dorset Police also clearly thought it proportionate to go knocking for him at 02:45 in the morning. Can anyone explain the proportionality of that?

    I live in Dorset and the Police have been moaning like hell about the "cuts" here. This sort of reaction and prioritisation hurts thier argument in my view.

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    Replies
    1. As I said, damned if you do and damned if you don't. In the evening he was tweeting threats to cause serious harm to people. If the police had waited until a civilised hour in the morning to speak to him and he had gone out overnight injuring people, like many others, you might be asking why on earth they hadn't gone and arrested him immediately.

      Delete
    2. We have a limited amount of resources. We need a certain level to handle contingencies for when things go wrong as it is the police that every other agency relies on particularly in the middle of the night.

      Occaisionally things don't go too badly and we have a couple of spare officers to go knocking on doors. Typically on my ground we'll have 4 or 5 arrest requests sitting in the queue waiting for quiet times when everyone else is asleep. Also you're most likely to find someone in insuring the early hours.

      Finally we have laws that set out a reasonable approximation of what is right and wrong. Police are sworn to uphold the law without favour or affection, malice or ill will. It is for magistrates to decide how serious a crime is during sentencing. I for one believe that people should be responsible for what they say and do and if they say or do wrong (and we can identify them) then they should be held to account. They are fairly straight forward cases to deal with and no more serious than most shoplifting or other volume crime. I bemoan the mentality of someone that thinks it is ok to say something over the Internet that would not be said to the face but police have to deal with what's happening in front of them at the time.

      Delete
  17. 'taint just me...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2181815/Twitter-Tyranny-Hailed-medium-speaking-mind-people-arrested-sending-insults.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Come on BS! You claim this to be a relatively serious minded blog and then you quote from the most ignorant and ill informed press.
      When support for your cause comes from Melanie Phillips of the Mail you know it is a lost one.

      Delete
    2. Ed (not Bystander)2 August 2012 01:25

      When support for your cause comes from Melanie Phillips of the Mail you know it is a lost one.

      You know what's ironic? He really, really doesn't.

      Delete
    3. Apart from abusing the Mail, which is not my favourite rag either, what is it that she wrote that your disagree with? A bit of reasoned debate would be nice, and much better than adolescent name-calling

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    4. Adolescent name-calling? There is none Your Worship. Just a few people who think your post is ill informed and bigoted. I hope you require evidence in Court rather than convicting someone who has the audacity to disagree with you. Case dismissed!

      Delete
    5. Read what I said again, Coco. Adolescent name calling is ranting about Philips and the Sun without referring to what she actually wrote.

      Delete
    6. I have read it again BS. Where is the ranting? Where is the adolescent name calling? You appear to be making up definitions to suit rather than apologising for 'blundering in' with false accusations.
      If you are kind you might accept that Phillip's article is attempting to debate whether or not the police should be involved in abuse on the internet. Your allegations of abuse show how subjective and ridiculous that would be.
      The article fails dismally as a piece of serious journalism. In paragraph 8 Phillips makes it clear she has no idea what tweets were sent by the 17 year old boy. She goes on to say that the police should not be involved in investigating insults because they are so subjective.
      In paragraph 36 she then goes on to say that 'Of course it has always been understood that the line should be drawn at real threats of violence or intimidation.' The threats made in the recent case clearly were threats of violence, including death. How on earth are the police supposed to know whether or not these threats are real without carrying out an investigation?
      The article takes us nowhere.

      Delete
  18. I think it necessary to look at what the Malicious Communications Act 1988 actually states. (It is reported that the young man was arrested under that). The Act is concerned with communications which are GROSSLY offensive or which contain threats.

    It is reported that one of the tweets contained a threat to down Daley. That is enough to bring the communication within the scope of the Act and it certainly justifies the Police action. Whether the individual is subsequently found to be guilty of the offence is, of course, another matter. For instance, it may not be possible to prove the mens rea required for the offence.

    Also, it is of interest that a "Police Information Notice" was issued. These are rather controversial since they pop up - maybe years later - on enhanced CRB checks. The Police just issue them on the basis of what they consider to be a single harassment. Apart from (maybe) judicial review, there is no legal way to challenge the notice in the courts.

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  19. If you say that ‘it’s just the internet’ and what point do you say it isn’t.

    There have been plenty of prosecutions over the years for people sending hate mail through the post.
    Why should the law be any different when it’s sent via email or twitter?

    There have been plenty of prosecutions over the years for libel and slander and offensive comments spoken or printed.
    Why should the law be any different when it’s published online.

    I know twitter and facebook can be strange because a comment can be both directed at a person and read by others at the same time.
    It’s like an open letter to some degree.

    But, a complaint was made, the police had a duty to investigate and take the chap into custody.
    What happens next is up the courts to decide.

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  20. What's good for the goose bystander....perhaps you'd like to explain your use of evocative language such as "blundering in" when you obviously weren't posting in possession of the full facts....I have hardly followed this story but even I knew from the snippets I'd seen that this chap was in trouble for what followed that comment not the comment itself.

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  21. rex_imperator2 August 2012 13:48

    @stillanon : you state "Police are sworn to uphold the law without favour or affection, malice or ill will".

    Er no. They used to be (in the days when I took the oath as a Special Constable but nowadays the oath has been given the politically correct treatment and reads:
    “I do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.”

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  22. What is the point of these oaths ? Policemen, doctors, new citizens, magistrates, Scouts, all take them. I suppose witnesses in court are occasionally prosecuted for breaking their oath, but nobody else ever is. They are like corporate vision statements: promulgated collaborative idealism that is forgotten immediately in a world of practical tasks and problems.

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  23. rex_imperator2 August 2012 22:36

    @TonyFrost. Depressing but true.

    ReplyDelete
  24. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/matthew-norman/matthew-norman-its-tom-daleys-twitter-tormentor-who-needs-the-laws-protection-7994775.html

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    Replies
    1. The is no difference between this article and Phillips. Norman is either ignorant of all the threats or chooses to ignore them. He rants (in your terms) about the police wasting their time and public money investigating such matters. Then he goes on to say the police should investigate if abuse is racially aggravated or if there are credible threats.

      If these commentators were simply arguing that all threats and abuse on the internet were not the responsibility of the police and 'victims' wishing to take action could resort to the civil courts, then I would say fine. All the time you are saying that, in some circumstances, the police are responsible then you cannot blame the police for carrying out an investigation to establish whether or not the threats are 'real' or 'credible.'

      All the while the police have some responsibility people like Phillips, Norman, and you BS, will be there to criticise when the police fail to investigate and it all goes wrong.

      Delete
  25. We are all on very dodgy ground when we base our arguments on information derived from the media.
    Just a thought.

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Posts are pre-moderated. Please bear with us if this takes a little time, but the number of bores and obsessives was getting out of hand, as were the fake comments advertising rubbish.