Why I Think Jo Brand Should be Sentenced To 147 Years In Prison by Chauncey Tinker – 19 Jun 2019
by Chauncey Tinker – 19 Jun 2019
Those of us who believe in equality before the law often face a difficult dilemma when laws that we do not think should exist are broken. Should we call for a law to be enforced equally, even though we would like to see that law abolished? These days the dilemma is especially difficult in cases involving freedom of speech, as to call for a prosecution in such cases could well encourage the authorities to further increase prosecutions of those who fail to adhere to so-called “politically correct” norms.
For example consider the recent case of Jo Brand’s comment on a BBC radio program:
“Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore, and they’re very, very easy to hate, and I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?
That’s just me, sorry, I’m not gonna do it, it’s purely a fantasy, but I think milk shakes are pathetic, I honestly do. Sorry.”
Obviously as Jo Brand’s remark was also aimed at precisely the sort of people who deviate from the current acceptable speech norms, she unfortunately has the huge weight of the current establishment behind her. The remark was ironically made on a BBC radio program called “Heresy”, clearly the program would be better named “Mindless Conformity”.
I would really not like to be in the shoes of a politician like Nigel Farage in a climate where such comments are deemed socially acceptable, especially since horrific acid attacks have become something of a regular occurrence in the UK. There was also another recent incident where Nigel Farage was the obvious target of such a remark, it seems there may be some contagion of ideas going on here as well.
I think the question of whether Jo Brand broke laws relating to incitement or not is debatable. Clearly some deranged individuals might be inspired to carry out such an attack on hearing the remarks. As I have explained at length before, I believe laws on incitement are necessary but as I have also explained before I think only incitement that meets my “direct and credible” test should be prosecuted. Jo Brand’s comments fall short of meeting that test on more than one count, she is a comedian and the remarks were made on a comedy show (however unfunny we may find it). Furthermore, she somewhat qualified the remark immediately afterwards saying that this was “purely a fantasy”.
The police have already decided not to take any action after receiving a complaint about the incitement, according to the Telegraph:
Jo Brand will be back on Radio 4 next week, as police say they will take no further action over her comments
On Friday night the Metropolitan Police said: “Police received an allegation of incitement to violence on 13 June, relating to comments made on a radio programme. The referral has been considered by the MPS and no further police action will be taken in relation to this allegation.”
However there is another law that Jo Brand (and the BBC that aired the program) have undoubtedly broken beyond any shadow of a doubt, and that law is the Communication Act of 2003. Any electronic communication that is judged to be “grossly offensive” in a court of law is in contravention of that act (BBC programs are made available on the internet). Certainly some victims of acid attacks were genuinely “grossly offended” by her remarks, I was also grossly offended.
This law is a very problematic law, and it has led to many dubious prosecutions. Some cases have also been overturned on appeal, for example the case when a man joked on social media about blowing up an airport. It was apparently just a joke, he didn’t have any intention of actually blowing the airport up, and in this case fellow comedians Stephen Fry and Al Murray (the pub landlord character) leapt to the man’s defence.
As I have commented many times before, the vague wording of this law has also led to the unequal application of the law. Worst of all, such unequal application of this and related laws restricting speech are fueling rising division in society, as some particular groups seem to be let off lightly while others are treated very harshly. An article at Jihad Watch draws our attention to many such cases:
UK: Laws against inciting hatred — funny how an Islamic supremacist hate preacher is never prosecuted
One sensible reaction is to call for the abolition of the law in question instead of calling for its enforcement, but unless there is a huge public outcry, or people in positions of influence are themselves feeling the negative impact of such a law, then there will be little incentive for our politicians to act. Hypocrisy and double standards are rather the order of the day, it comes as no real surprise that our protests about such unequal enforcement are continuing to fall on wilfully deaf ears. No doubt those currently in such positions of influence believe the status quo will continue indefinitely, that the boot will never be on the other foot, and so they are not troubled by the thought that one day they might themselves fall foul of an unreasonable and discriminatory judgement.
Where were those above mentioned comedians when a man was sentenced to four months for making some merely “racist anti-Muslim” comments on Facebook? Where were those great defenders of freedom of speech when a cleaner called Stephen Bennett was sentenced to a 12 months community order for merely posting a harmless message on Facebook that said:
“Don’t come over to this country and treat it like your own. Britain first.”
The truth of course is that while those comedians are totally relaxed about the blowing up of airports and the tossing of battery acid at defenceless right wing politicians, they have an absolutely zero tolerance attitude when it comes to people expressing a desire to leave the EU, or voicing concerns about mass immigration, or expressing alarm about the growing influence of Islam in our society. Those comedians will not be leaping to the defence of anybody who harbours such concerns any time soon, and so it is up to the rest of us, the voiceless majority, to do that. As so far our complaints have been in vain, perhaps it is time for us to adopt a radically different approach, perhaps it is time for us to call for the prosecution of Jo Brand under the Communication Act. Perhaps this is the only way we will succeed in incentivizing those in positions of influence today to campaign for the abolition of this law.
Furthermore, I think we should also call for a sentence for Jo Brand that is directly proportionate to the sentencing in other similar cases. Liam Stacey, a student, was sentenced in 2012 to 54 days for making some “vile and abhorrent” comments of a racist nature on social media (about a footballer apparently). Jo Brand is a well known comedian who was speaking on a regular basis on a national media program whereas Mr. Stacey was just a student posting comments on a social media account that hardly anybody would even see. There is no suggestion in media reports that he was in any way inciting violence, whereas Jo Brand was inciting a violent act of a truly horrific nature. All this considered, I think that to say the crime is a thousand times worse is probably an understatement, and so let us call for a thousand times longer sentence as a minimum. Jo Brand should therefore be sentenced to 54 * 1000 days in prison, or 147 years.
In summary then I conclude that we should indeed call for the prosecution of Jo Brand, under the Communications Act 2003. We should call for the equal enforcement of laws, even when we don’t agree with those laws, because otherwise there will be no pressure on the powers that be to either reform or repeal those laws. When we fail to call for equal enforcement we are tacitly accepting selective enforcement of the law, thereby giving the powers that be a nod of encouragement to (continue to) use the law in a discriminatory fashion.
My definition divides incitement into two main categories, DIRECT and INDIRECT. I propose that only direct incitement should ever be criminalized, and even then only when it is deemed as “CREDIBLE” according to a credibility test that I set out in this post:
Incitement – A New Legal Framework
UK Citizens Need Protection From Selective Enforcement Of The Law
Another recent very similar case of incitement:
ACID ATTACKS AND THE HAPPY CITY
I also think that we should call for Jo Brand to be banished permanently from the BBC without question, or better still we should call for the BBC to lose all broadcasting licences and to be privatized. The BBC is a repeat offender in breaking the Communications Act, as I commented before:
What Is The Right Punishment For The BBC?
From the Crown Prosecution Service:
Social Media – Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media
From a blog at the LSE:
Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003: Threat or Menace?
A useful page listing some controversial prosecutions under the Communications Act 2003:
Communications Act 2003/Section 127
Sentencing has varied wildly in Section 127 convictions
Hate speech laws in the United Kingdom
From the BBC:
Facebook and Twitter sentences: Are judges out of touch with social media?
From the Daily Mail:
Acid attack victims slam Jo Brand’s ‘vile’ and ‘inhumane’ remark as they call on her and the BBC to apologise and say police should arrest her
From the Sun:
BRAND ON THE RUN Comedian Jo Brand gives a half-hearted apology for ‘acid hurl’ joke but claims it wasn’t a ‘mistake’ and that she’s blameless
A different view on the Jo Brand comments, from Delingpole at Breitbart:
Delingpole: Farage Demands Police Action over BBC Comic Jo Brand’s Battery Acid Joke
What do you think? Should Jo Brand be sent to prison for ever? Please leave a comment below.