The criminal justice system has too much time on its hands

I think we should take a moment to congratulate the British police force for their apparent success in eradicating all crime from the country. All of the nation’s murderers, rapists, arsonists, muggers, car thieves and fraudsters are safely behind bars; detectives and forensic investigators are dejectedly sitting around with no crimes left to solve; and our fellow citizens can sleep with their doors unlocked, secure in the knowledge that there are no would-be miscreants around to cause trouble.

At least, this is the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the recent news that, following an indignant frenzy of complaints lodged by other Twitter users, police in Swansea have arrested a 21-year-old man who posted racially offensive comments online regarding the hospitalisation of black Premiership footballer Fabrice Muamba. The fact that the publically-funded agents of law enforcement can find nothing better to do with their time than tracking down and prosecuting people for being mean on the Internet must be a testament to their effectiveness in ridding the country of crimes that cause actual harm.

This is just the latest in a series of increasingly frequent incidents where criminal proceedings have been launched against people whose only offence is writing words on a web site. One particularly notorious example was the so-called Twitter joke trial, a case that is arguably an order of magnitude more ridiculous than this one, concerning as it did an entirely humourous message that was neither intended to be offensive nor treated as such by anyone who read it — except of course for the snivelling, vindictive bureaucrats in charge of the so-called “justice” system, who are determined not to let such trivialities as public interest or common sense get in the way of their conviction rates.

I find racism as despicable as any other irrational prejudice; but, unlike the generation of pampered cry-babies that seem to set the political agenda these days, I am capable of hating an idea without demanding that it be censored by the authorities. Not only is such censorship abhorrent to those who value the free exchange of ideas, however “offensive” they might seem, but it is also totally ineffective in bringing about any positive social change. Arresting people for using the word “nigger” is not going to persuade the world’s racists to give up their bigotry any more than the French and German governments’ bans on swastikas and Hitler salutes have magically eliminated neo-Nazi ideology from their respective countries.

One cannot say with certainty what truly motivates cases like this — perhaps a combination of political correctness, jobsworths enforcing the rules simply because they can, an attempt to compensate for the accusations of “institutional racism” that resulted from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, and various other factors — but it is probably a safe bet that not one person’s life has been improved as a consequence. Those who harbour an illogical hatred of differently-coloured people haven’t changed their views in the slightest, levels of racially-motivated violence are exactly where they were a week ago, and all the while Internet users have to tread ever more carefully to avoid expressing an Illegal Opinion that will get them a fine and a criminal record.

If the government ministers in charge of cost-cutting had any sense, they would be looking at the rising obsession with speech crime as a sign that the systems of law enforcement and public prosecution are carrying some significant extra fat which could safely be trimmed.

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