Free Speech: Linda Jones trial makes a mockery of hate crime
Linda Jones, 65, of St Albans, has been found guilty of a religiously-aggravated hate crime. Jones, who had no previous, is now the owner of a 12 month community order and six week curfew following an altercation in Watford on April 17, 2014.
The Herts Advertiser reports:
Judge Pilling found Jones, who had no previous convictions, guilty of a religiously-aggravated Section 4A public order offence last month, after she called two Muslim men “terrorists with guns in their pockets”.
During the Jewish holiday of Passover last year, Jones and other members of the Beit Nitzachon congregation were manning a council-approved literature table in Watford town centre.
The table was draped with the national flags of Britain and Israel and carried Messianic Jewish literature.
Hamza Shah, 21, and Haroon Munir, 24, came over and began to talk about Israel – they are not in favour of the country.
After several minutes Hamza Shah led Haroon Munir away from the argument, during which Jones was found to have made the racist comment.
Richard Cavarth reports on the courtroom exchange, in which District Judge Annabel Pilling refers to Israel as the ‘Holy Land’. Words matter. Judge Pilling has made a conscious choice. The country whose flag was being objected to is called Israel. The case also featured Jones being asked under cross-examination by prosecutor for the CPS, barrister Alan Burdis-Smith: “Was that [the Israel flag] there to wind up Muslims?”
Jones and her supporters will feel victimised. Haroon and his supporters will feel justified.
But this is about so-called hate crime. Where once the police would have eyed the Jews and Muslims with suspicion- as they would homosexuals and blacks – they now invite minorities to tell them about phobic attacks. Under the banner ‘Intorerance will not be tolerated’ the police and all other institutions rocked by a crisis of identity are using race, religion and sexuality to show how useful, therapeutic and morally right-on they are.
Burdis-Smith’s inference that a flag can trigger such offence that a crime ensues is alarming. It touches at the root of hate crimes that invite police to examine your beliefs and thoughts. Why is beating someone up worse if you don’t like their race than simply hurting them because you don’t like them as an individual? In investigating the trigger for the offence, the police are investigating your thinking. Being a nasty piece of work who wanted to inflict pain on someone else is one thing; but in the State’s eyes being a malicious swine who could also be a racist is far worse.
This approach chips away at free spech. To say something negative against a race or relgion is to be hateful. Cerain forms of speech are deemed worse than others. Censorship and restriction expand as each offended group demands the same protection. Jones was accused of ‘extremism’. But should other extreme views be also banned, such as cultural extremism or political extremism? Free spech within set paremeters is no free speech at all.
Australia’s race discrimination commissioner says that his country’s hate crime laws prevents repetition of the Holocaust because “genocide begins with words”. I’d argue that censorship is far more dangerous. It denies words. You should be free to hate who you like. You should be able to debate your prejudice because bigogry is not best left unheard on pain of law. A view needs airing, allowing everyone to hear it and see it held up to debate and ridicule. The great unwashed are not race-riots waiting to happen. We can take it. It’s just that the elite won’t allow us to, using hate crimes to prop up their own shaking foundations and remain powerful.
Jones has been convicted of airing her ill-advised thoughts. Her words were stupid and ugly but to brand them criminal gives them a power that just isn’t there. Did she attack anyone or plot to? She was offensive certainly. But anyone can be. Section 5 of the Public Order Act criminalises “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” in the vicinity of a person “likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby”. You can be an accidental criminal. Law rests on the emotional response of the offended party. If you are offended, then you are the victim of a hate crime.
Jones’ victims invited the police to act as mediator and judge of public debate. The law willingly grasped the invitation. But those same victims should realise that the Government’s illiberal hate crime laws curtail all free speech and free expression.
In short: unless you comply with the proscribed texts, you’re next.