Readers may remember that in June I wrote about Andrew Love, the somewhat inappropriately named "shock blogger" who had just pleaded guilty to causing a "racially-aggravated breach of the peace", by posting offensive comments on his blog. At the time he was told that he might go to prison.
Thankfully, he has not been jailed, but has been sentenced to 160 hours community service.
Now, I have to say that much of what Love wrote does sound somewhat offensive. Notably, he mocked the Falklands veteran Simon Weston. No doubt many of his comments about, variously, blacks, Muslims, the Irish, homosexuals, and disabled people were also in poor taste. And his action in publishing his boss's e-mail address and home postcode were certainly unacceptable. Morrisons supermarket, where he was employed, would have been quite within their rights had they sacked him.
However, he was not inciting violence, or criminality: he was just indulging in juvenile "humour". If anyone imagines that equally offensive comments aren't made on a daily basis in schoolyards across the country, then they are probably a long-term resident of Nephelokokkygia. The right to free speech does extend to the right to cause offence. If it did not, it would be completely meaningless. While Andrew Love certainly behaved poorly, perhaps unacceptably, this was not something that merited a criminal conviction. The unacceptability of his actions could easily have been brought home to him through the displeasure of his peers, and possibly through disciplinary action by Morrisons.
Update: According to The Scotsman, this website (warning: website contains flash intro) is Love's. I can't see anything even remotely offensive there, from a cursory glance round, although I suppose that the offensive comments could have been removed. Or, alternatively, The Scotsman could have got it wrong, and this could be some poor innocent guy getting associated with a wicked thought criminal.