Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Sending a mean tweet about Captain Tom shouldn’t be a crime

Captain Tom Moore (Getty images)

Captain Tom Moore captured the nation’s hearts during the pandemic. The World War II officer completed 100 lengths of his garden at the age of 99 to raise money for NHS-related charities, attracting more than £30 million in donations and being knighted by the Queen. When he died last February, aged 100, the fond tributes and outpouring of sadness were universal. Well, almost. 

Glaswegian Joseph Kelly marked Captain Tom’s passing by tweeting a photograph of the veteran and the words:

‘The only good brit soldier is a deed one, burn auld fella, buuuuurn’.

Criminal patter should not land you a criminal record

Undoubtedly these words were offensive: to British soldiers, the memory of Captain Tom, and the English language. Kelly, who tweeted under the name ‘Saor Alba’ (Gaelic for ‘Free Scotland’), was being an idiot and deserved to be told so. That should have been the end of the matter. If only. 

Kelly, aged 36, has been convicted of sending a ‘grossly offensive’ tweet. He will be sentenced next month. Did those who reported Kelly’s tweet to the police do so because they were unable to reach his mum and ask her to give him a telling off? Kelly was prosecuted under Section 127 of the Communications Act (2003), which says a person breaks the law if he ‘sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character’.

Among those convicted under Section 127 are Kate Scottow, a feminist prosecuted after she ‘misgendered’ a transwoman; Jordan Barrack, a 20-year-old fined for drawing penises on a photograph of a policeman; and Paul Chambers, who was done for joking on Twitter about blowing up an airport after his flight was cancelled.

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