Stephen Birrell, a 28-year-old from Glasgow, is being jailed for 8 months largely as a result of some offensive Facebook comments. Now, Birrell was not an otherwise upstanding citizen. When he posted the abusive comments, he’d just been released from a completely separate 12-month sentence. In addition, he’s been banned from attending any regulation soccer matches for 5 years. Dude probably has some issues with keeping his mouth shut.
The postings in question directed hate at fans of the Celtic Football Club as well as Catholics but, surprisingly enough, most of the postings contained neither profanity nor threats of violence. In fact, we can post several of them here.
A few of the comments, courtesy of BBC News:
“Hope they [Celtic fans] all die. Simple. Catholic scumbags ha ha.”
“Proud to hate Fenian tattie farmers. Simple ha ha.”
“They’re all ploughing the fields the dirty scumbags.”
According to the BBC, he also made some off-color comments about the Pope. Those weren’t repeated.
According to statements from the law enforcement involved, it seems as though Birrell is intended to be an example for other would-be loud mouths who like to talk about how much they hate other groups of people. Upon the delivery of the sentence, Sheriff Bill Totten said “I do want to make clear today that in selecting a prison sentence I also have in mind that the court should be sending out a clear message to deter others who might be tempted to behave in this way,” and made clear that, in his mind, Birrell’s statements were hate crimes.
The Solicitor General (Attorney General) Lesley Thomson had the following to say:
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is absolutely determined to play its part in confronting the problems of sectarianism, religious offences and related disorder and violence.
Whether the offences are at the football match itself, travelling to or from it, or as in this case online threatening communications, we will do all in our power to bring those who perpetrate such crimes to justice.
Prosecutors will continue to prosecute anyone indulging in such behaviour which is completely unacceptable in modern Scotland.”
While this is a respectable attempt to cut down on offensive, hate-filled language in a public forum, I can’t help but think “Well, it’s the Internet. This is a thing that happens there.” Of course, maybe that’s not how it has to be. Still, Birrell’s comments were notably devoid of any sort of threats, despite their vitriol. Then again, in context of his previous record, the threats very well may have been clearly implied.
(via BBC News)
- U.S. Courts have ruled Facebook to be protected under the right to free speech
- A German state has outlawed the use of embedded Facebook “Like” buttons
- Missouri is trying hard to make Student-Teacher Facebooking illegal
- The bill got temporarily blocked, though