Sunday, July 12, 2009

Compare And Contrast

"The sentence today reflects the seriousness of the offences"

Thus a police officer (Humberside Police head of diversity and community cohesion Adil Khan) on the conviction of Simon Guy Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, who got four and a half years and two years respectively for 'publishing written material to stir up racial hatred'. The paper doesn't say what they actually did, but the BBC report that :

One leaflet claimed that Auschwitz had not really been the location of industrial mass murder but had been, instead, a holiday camp provided by a benevolent Nazi regime for Europe's Jewish population. Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the jury that it held up survivors of the Holocaust to "ridicule and contempt", accusing them of lying about the genocide of six million Jews. Another story was illustrated with photographs of dead Jews. Sheppard also wrote that Holocaust victim Anne Frank's diary was "evil".

Now they don't sound like very nice people, or indeed the sharpest knives in the drawer. But should they be imprisoned for being unpleasant about the Shoah and its victims, vile though their sense of humour seems to be ? Apparently not :

Reviewing lawyer Mari Reid, of the Crown Prosecution Service's counter-terrorism division, said members of the public were entitled under the law to hold racist and extreme views.

But ?

But she added: "What they are not entitled to do is to publish or distribute those opinions to the public in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner either intending to stir up racial hatred or in circumstances where it is likely racial hatred will be stirred up."

Me no understand, doctor. I'm presuming there was no threatening involved. Threats or incitement are criminal acts in themselves. There's presumably little doubt that what they wrote was abusive and insulting - though in that case why is the Devil still at large ? I can see how you might distribute something to the public in a threatening manner - attach to brick and hurl through windows, for example. But how do you publish something on the Web in a "threatening, abusive or insulting manner" - hit the 'enter' key with a hammer ?

It appears that it's perfectly OK (legally, I mean) for them to hold their thoughts in their heads - but an imprisonable crime for them to share them with third parties.

Yet others, who seem to non-lawyer Laban far closer to public acts of incitement (well, how do you interpret 'take that homosexual and throw him off the mountain' ?) seem to escape censure - indeed, it's those who bring such statements to wider attention who end up being investigated.

Most odd. But I digress - it was another double standard that got me :

Two Nepalese men have received three-year prison sentences at the Old Bailey today, for the manslaughter of Esher waiter Bishal Gurung last year.

Morden residents Rocky Gurung, 21, from Haig Place, and Kemik Thakali, 21, from Legion Court, both pleaded not guilty to murder during the trial last month but were found guilty of the manslaughter of the 23-year-old waiter.

During the trial, the court was told Bishal Gurung, who worked at the Sherpa Kitchen in Esher High Street, was chased along the Thames Embankment by a gang of 10 to 15 men including Rocky Gurung in the early hours of April 13, 2008, after being falsely accused of hitting Kemik Thakali with a bottle during a boat party to celebrate Nepalese new year.

He was kicked and beaten before being rolled into the Thames by Rocky Gurung and Thakali, the court was told.

Right. A guy with some unpleasant obsessions and (to put it gently) debateable theories publishes them - four and a half years. A mob chases an innocent man, beating him, kicking him and throwing in a river to drown - three years.

It used to be that talk was cheap and life was precious in this country. No more.

More double standards. Do you remember when lots of young black people were being shot in English cities, and Blunkett got tough ?

UK firearms laws are to be tightened as a result of an unacceptable increase in "flagrant gun use", said Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The changes - which come just days after two teenage girls were killed at a Birmingham New Year party - will see a mandatory jail sentence of five years for gun possession.
So the law was 'toughened' - and, to cut down on the number of black youths being shot in London, gun enthusiasts from Bromsgrove to Wrexham were banged up. The Wrexham guy got four years for the empty revolver in the drawer at his Mum's house.

Five years later the prisons were chocker and the whole thing was a bit more nuanced :

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The mandatory five-year term for possession of a firearm is a starting point. Judges must then take aggravating and mitigating factors into consideration when determining the final sentence." He added: "Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the courts."

I see. 'Mandatory' means whatever the judge thinks is proper. And now what's this :

Two men have been jailed for a total of more than eight years for drugs and firearms off-ences.

Munir Hussain, 28, was jailed for five years and six months and Kab Khaliq, 25, was handed a three-year term when they were sentenced by judges in separate cases...

Khaliq, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, was arrested by officers from Pennine police’s targeted crime team who executed a search warrant. They discovered a black hand gun, four rounds of ammunition, £700 of cocaine and £1,600 of heroin. At Preston Crown Court, Khaliq was jailed for possession of a handgun and possession of class A drugs with intent to supply.

So you've got the gun, bullets, smack and coke - and get only three years ?

My first thought was that Khaliq must have been 'helping the police' - but then the so-called 'Mr Big' only got five. I wonder if the answer lies with the judge ? According to these posts the judge in one of the trials (doesn't say which) was Beverley 'Let 'em all out' Lunt.

UPDATE - Samizdata :

The state only regards people stating their extreme opinions as "incitement" if they belong to ritually abominated groups like white racists, whose extreme views must be punished because there is no political cost to doing so. For groups who actually throw bricks when the cops come calling, well, stating their extreme views is treated rather differently.

This is hardly new of course. Incite violence with words, but be unlikely to actually do anything, well you might well go to jail... actually kill people over many years, ah, that eventually gets you invited to help govern. No? I have two words for you: Sinn Fein.

Last time I called Britain a police state, I was dismissed as overheated because, after all, I can run this blog and state my contrary opinions, so this is hardly a police state.

Yet were Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle not just jailed for running a website on a US server (just as Samizdata is on a US server)? If you cast your eyes back through our archives, you will find we have on many occasions called for this or that group to have fairly violent things done to them (Ba'athists for example... and certain Wahhabi folk on occasion too... and certain Serbian nationalists)... and I suspect trawling through the archives of the Daily Telegraph would turn up articles 'inciting' not just 'violence' but calling for full blown wars.

Well it is now clear that we can say what we think, not by right as 'freeborn Englishmen' (hah!) but rather at the sufferance of the likes of Adil Khan and the whole apparatus of thought control that people like him represent. They do not feel the urge to come after us because we are not unpopular enough, although I doubt they like folks like us suggesting they prose a vastly greater threat to liberty and, gasp, "social cohesion" than a couple comically wacko racists.

Have you seen this being hotly debated in the media? Even a little? Pah. So much for the fearless and 'essential' media guardians of our liberal western order.