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17 year old girl arrested over 'offensive' Facebook comment

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Time to talk about this again. A 17 year old girl has been arrested in relation to comments she made on Facebook about a 15 year old boy who died suddenly. BBC

 

I believe that police interference in our lives should only happen when absolutely necessary; to protect people from violence, theft, and other very serious crimes. Arresting someone means using violence against them, and this should only occur in grave circumstances.

 

In the conservative political atmosphere that prevails in the UK and over here, criminalisation has become an over-used tool for social engineering. Want to make people less racist? Make saying racist things illegal. Want to promote social cohesion and harmony? Make saying offensive things illegal.

 

It is a tool which is used far too casually, and far too frequently without considering what it entails. It is firstly the use of force against innocent people (as they must be considered until they have been proven otherwise), the psychological distress of being subject to this process, and the host of other restrictions and sanctions that arrest and criminalisation often mean.

 

The law has long strayed over the bounds in which it ought to operate. It ought to have very limited interference in speech and expression, if any at all.

It may be argued that offending someone, or causing them distress or alarm, are forms of violence, and I would agree with this, but physical violence is a much more serious form, and its use by the state against innocent civilians should be used sparingly and only when most necessary; furthermore its use must by proportionate to the crime.

 

In cases such as this one, the response of the law is not in reasonable proportion to the supposed crime. The girl's comments may have been hurtful, offensive, distressing to someone (equally, they may not have been, and it may be that someone has just decided that they could be) but this does not justify the use of force and the power of the law against her. She, and everyone else, ought to be able to speak their mind, no matter how much offense this may cause, without fear of reprisal from an overbearing state that thinks the way to create a compliant, prosperous, and peaceful society (such are their ends) is to use repressive laws as a form of social engineering.

 

Do you think the actions of the state in this case are justified? Why?

 

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How can I know? I don't know what was posted, whether it was following a sustained period on and off-line bullying. Whether it was threatening. Whether the lad was especially vulnerable.

 

I do know that the unexplained deaths of 15 year olds absolutely should be investigated and that includes questioning those who might be involved.

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Indeed. Without any context or facts I don't think anyone can say if the actions are justified. That includes you. This is just another opportunity for you to post your drug fuelled rambling liberal rhetoric.

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What if this teenage girl told him that if she was him she'd kill herself with a gas oven?

He'd have to be a complete shit for anyone to suggest that.

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It's all a matter of degree isn't it.

 

A part of me thinks we should trust Juries in this. They are made up of ordinary people and they can decide if what has been done is grossly offensive or not.

 

Yeah they can be led, and it still involves people being pulled up by the police etc. but the ultimate issue is that prosecutors won't gain anything if they push cases where juries won't convict, and so ultimately juries will proscribe prosecutors veal.

 

I feel the legal principle that a jury of ordinary people should decide for itself what is grossly offensive etc is really important, and I do not like the recent changes to reduce Jury Trials.

 

We don't know the circumstances and details of this case. I'm not such a libertarian to think that people should be left entirely free to say and do whatever they think on the internet. Words and images have power and can and do have consequences. Therefore the state does need powers to intervene if people go too far, and how should that be decided, by 12 ordinary people viewing the evidence.

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Do you think the police want to spent their time dealing with Facebook complaints?

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I don't like the idea of people being arrested over offensive comments, but as Declan says, we don't know what was said and the death is unexplained at the moment. There could be a lot more to this.

 

However...

 

...Arresting someone means using violence against them...

 

...It is firstly the use of force against innocent people (as they must be considered until they have been proven otherwise)...

 

What you seem to be saying here is that nobody should ever be arrested because it's a violent act against innocent people. Which is nonsense.

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It's a difficult balance. On the one hand you should be allowed to freely voice your opinion, on the other there should be a basic expectation on every member of society to not be a complete jockstrap.

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End of the day police dont make the laws they enforce them. If this girl has committed an offence and a complaint has been made they have to investigate it. if this girl hadnt made the comments she did she wouldnt have been lifted. People seem to thinl that facebook gives you carte blanch to say what you want. We get you dont like the police but as for using violence when arresting someone again police are given powers to arrest people and its always on suspicion of an offence so they can be questioned.

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It's a difficult balance. On the one hand you should be allowed to freely voice your opinion, on the other there should be a basic expectation on every member of society to not be a complete jockstrap.

And how do we determine where that balance lies? Up until very recently, I was very much of the thinking that we should have free speech, i.e. freedom to say whatever we like without a society admonishing the speaker. Now I am not sure when I think of the problem of racism, heterosexism, and sexism.

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I don't like the idea of people being arrested over offensive comments, but as Declan says, we don't know what was said and the death is unexplained at the moment. There could be a lot more to this.

 

However...

What if there was verbal harrassment at one extreme or just a one-off visious comment? If the person committed suicide, for example, should the person who caused it by their speech be punished?

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End of the day police dont make the laws they enforce them. If this girl has committed an offence and a complaint has been made they have to investigate it. if this girl hadnt made the comments she did she wouldnt have been lifted. People seem to thinl that facebook gives you carte blanch to say what you want. We get you dont like the police but as for using violence when arresting someone again police are given powers to arrest people and its always on suspicion of an offence so they can be questioned.

The problem is its a double edged sword on the Internet. On the one hand, the original idea was that it would be open and free and anyone with any particular view point could make it known to like minded folk. But then you also have people who are there just to cause upset and pain at the expense of others.

 

The question is, can you justly police the Internet or only police those whom you can catch? The other thing to bear in mind is that once it has started, where does it stop?

 

Could it one day be that you are pulled up for off hand comments to your friends or family. For example, a teenager may say to his friend I'd burn down that school given the chance or kill Mrs Smith etc. Could he then be arrested for conspiracy to commit arson/murder?

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This is just another opportunity for you to post your drug fuelled rambling liberal rhetoric.

It's good to see impartial moderators encouraging people to start debates. If you've got any rhetoric let's hear it.

 

 

...Arresting someone means using violence against them...

 

...It is firstly the use of force against innocent people (as they must be considered until they have been proven otherwise)...

 

What you seem to be saying here is that nobody should ever be arrested because it's a violent act against innocent people. Which is nonsense.

 

Arrest is a violent act against innocent people, but I didn't say that it should never be used. I said that it "should only happen when absolutely necessary; to protect people from violence, theft, and other very serious crimes". Not used as it is now, as a casual tool to punish minor transgressions in speech.

 

To those who have shied from making comment because we haven't been told what exactly the girl said, I don't think this is of great importance. She was arrested under Section 27 of the Communication Act which prohibits the sending of a message that is 'grossly offensive'. Apparently her comments were reported as such to the police. She hasn't threatened anyone, which would be a different crime. We can imagine that it might have been something along the lines of "I'm glad he's dead lol". It doesn't really matter as we can argue on principal.

And in principal, I believe the worse crime here is subjecting a person who has merely caused offense or distress through their words to judicial procedure and everything that entails. The worse crime is the suppression of speech. Why should causing offense be criminalised at all? We all ought to value and guard our right to do so, as freedom of expression is essential in the construction of a free and fair society where every person can speak their mind without fear.

 

 

I do know that the unexplained deaths of 15 year olds absolutely should be investigated and that includes questioning those who might be involved.

 

I agree, but this has gone beyond simply questioning people about the death itself to actually arresting someone for something that was said afterwards.

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The worse crime is the suppression of speech. Why should causing offense be criminalised at all? We all ought to value and guard our right to do so, as freedom of expression is essential in the construction of a free and fair society where every person can speak their mind without fear.

I don't think offence should be criminalised. I'm with you on that one. But the problem is encountered with speech that is considered oppression. Absolute free speech could be argued to lead to a society where those who are the targets of oppressive speech are less free than those who use it.

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