Thursday, February 3, 2011

The perils of humour

I wonder what The Birmingham Conservative councillor Gareth Compton thinks about having his DNA taken and put on a national database having been arrested for "an offence under section 127 (1a) of the Communications Act of 2003 on suspicion of sending an offensive or indecent message." Especially now that the charges have been dropped. His real offence was of course the folly of crossing the "professionally offended" with an attempt at humour.

Birmingham Post.
The Birmingham Conservative councillor who was suspended from his party after he called for the stoning of a Muslim journalist on Twitter has had all charges against him dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Birmingham City councillor Gareth Compton was arrested last November after joking on the social media site: “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.”

Despite a swift apology for his ‘ill-conceived attempt at humour’ the barrister, who lives in Harborne, was arrested by police and immediately suspended from the Conservative Party while investigations took place.

The CPS confirmed it has now dropped the case due to insufficient evidence. His political future is now in the hands of Conservative Party chairwoman Baroness Warsi, who is currently overseeing the party’s inquiry into the matter.
It is thought that he has the backing of influential Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, Birmingham’s only Conservative MP, and colleagues are hopeful he will be allowed to resume his membership. Councillor Compton was not available for comment.
Timing is crucial as his term of office as Erdington ward councillor ends in May and Conservative Party colleagues say he is keen to stand for election.
A party colleague said: “We thought the police investigation would not go anywhere and are relieved the CPS has officially dropped the case.
“Most Birmingham Tories would welcome him back. Timing is not yet critical, but if this time next month he is still not back in the fold we will need to find another candidate for Erdington.”
A CPS spokesman said: “Mr Compton posted a message on his Twitter page. A member of the public, who read this message, made a complaint to the police who then instigated an investigation.
“Ms Alibhai-Brown has refused to make any complaint to the police on the matter and the member of the public, who initially reported this matter, has also refused to provide the prosecution with a statement.
“A file was then submitted to the reviewing lawyer who has carefully reviewed all of the evidence, as well as the fact that we have no statement of complaint, and they have decided there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.”
Coun Compton kept a low profile since the scandal and deleted his online Twitter account. On Tuesday this week he was back on the Tory benches at a full council meeting and refused to comment.
The Twitter row occurred when he tweeted a comment on Independent newspaper columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s contribution to a Radio Five debate on human rights in China.
After the storm broke he wrote: “I made an ill-conceived attempt at humour in response to YAB saying no politician had the right to comment on human rights abuses, even the stoning of women in Iran.”
Ms Alibhai-Brown said: “I think it is unacceptable to use that kind of language.”
 Ok at least the Yazmonster (©Julia @ Ambush Predator) didn't press charges though her distinct lack of humour and ill grace shines through quite clearly, nor it seems was the original complainant willing to have their name exposed to the probable disapprobation of people like me. Not that I believe the councillor should have been arrested, it was obviously a joke, the "I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t" is a bit of a giveaway, though doing it on a public forum like twitter was always a risk, people get offended so easily for others these days, though in my opinion, the police should not have acted unless the Yazmonster herself had asked them too. Then again, hate crime is clearly the new black when it comes to police time, it ticks a lot of politically correct boxes though is not as lucrative as fleecing motorists. Not so long ago before the days of new labour the police would have turned around and told the bleating complainant to stop wasting their time, they had that discretion then, these days their hands are a bit tied by the legislation and they have to act if a complaint is made and so waste a lot of money and time doing so when a simple caution would have been far more than sufficient.
As it is, poor Gareth Compton's fate is now in the hands of Baroness Warsi another one of the professionally offended, still at least he didn't mention the "M" word or the "I" word he merely made a joke about the quaint Islamic habit of stoning women... oh dear.

Update, seems humour is dead as Ben Donnelly got the sack for an equally "unfunny" joke about Islam.

3 annotations:

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Have we actually sunk to the state where humour is only allowed if it has been sanctioned by the state? Are we no longer able to see for ourselves when something said is a joke?

So some language is unacceptable? Ok, just ignore it as by filing a complaint all that happens is the incident gains publicity. Err, wait, sorry just realised it is not what was said that gains publicity, it is the individual seeking his 15 minutes of fame.

James Higham said...

Is GF an indecent message?

Quiet_Man said...

Well I didn't think so James, but I'm pretty close to what passes for normal around here.