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Thursday 21 November 2002

Thoughtcrime Prosecution in Britain

This has been posted a number of places, but it’s important enough that it should be mentioned here, in case you read Tinotopia and nothing else.

Robin Page, a columnist for the Telegraph, has been arrested in Gloucestershire on suspicion of violating Section 18 (1) of the Public Order Act, which is to say on suspicion of “stirring up racial hatred”.

Mr Page said yesterday: “I urged people to go on the march and I urged that the rural minority be given the same legal protection as other minorities. All I said was that the rural minority should have the same rights as blacks, Muslims and gays.

Few people would actually defend the stirring up of “racial hatred”, of course. It’s true that the ACLU defends the KKK, which has as its purpose the stirring up of racial hatred. I’d suggest that, whatever the purpose of racial-hatred groups, they don’t actully stir up any racial hatred, except possibly against their own members.

I am worried most about this type of law not because of the possibility of unintended consequences, but because of the possibility that cases like Mr Page’s are not unintended consequences. That Mr Page was arrested at all — there’s no dispute over what was said, and there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable way to construe his comments as “stirring up hatred” — seems to show that statements of “racial hatred” can be anything a complainant and the police want them to be.

Posted by tino at 13:46 21.11.02
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