MEP condemns jail sentence for man who wore offensive T Shirt after murder of policewomen (From Warrington Guardian)
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MEP condemns jail sentence for man who wore offensive T Shirt after murder of policewomen
1:00pm Friday 12th October 2012 in News
THE jailing of a man for wearing a T-shirt daubed with offensive comments referring to the murders of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes has been condemned by a Warrington Euro MP.
Barry Thew, 39, was spotted in his home town of Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, wearing a T-shirt which carried handwritten comments of "One less pig; perfect justice" and "Killacopforfun.com haha".
Less than three-and-a-half hours earlier, Ms Hughes, 23, and Ms Bone, 32, were shot dead in a gun and grenade attack as they responded to a reported burglary on the Hattersley estate in Mottram, Greater Manchester.
Thew, of Wolsey Street, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court to the public order offence committed on September 18.
But North West Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies described his arrest and jailing as an “attack on free expression that weakened Britain’s moral authority in the world.”
He said: “How do we condemn Russia for imprisoning members of the ‘Pussy Riot’ group for offensive acts if we do the same here?
“If someone was to wear a T-shirt claiming that ‘Jimmy Savile was a nice man’ what is to stop them being arrested too?
“If we are to protect freedom in this country then we have to accept that even offensive idiots have the right to express their views. The fact that many people may be upset by them is not a sufficient justification.”
Following sentencing, Inspector Bryn Williams, of the Radcliffe Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "While officers on the ground were just learning of and trying to come to terms with the devastating news that two colleagues had been murdered, Thew thought nothing of going out in public with a T-shirt daubed with appalling handwritten comments.
"Thankfully the overwhelming response from the public - who have inundated us with messages of support and condolence - prove that is the exception and not the rule and our communities were right behind us at our darkest hour.
"To mock or joke about the tragic events of that morning is morally reprehensible and Thew has rightly been convicted and sentenced for his actions."
But Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, is in agreement with Mr Davies. He said: "The public shame of such a senseless and callous act is punishment enough.
"The idea that you should spend several months in prison for writing something on a T-shirt when shoplifters, burglars and a whole host of other offenders serve far less is absurd.
"Using the Public Order Act to police words is a chilling effect on freedom of speech and these powers have also been used to arrest Christian street preachers, critics of Scientology and even students making jokes.
"It's time we reform the law to protect freedom of speech and focus the police on bringing to justice those who seek to incite harm, not those who cause offence."