Human Rights: Taking Offence……

16 Oct

‘There is no human right to ‘not be offended’ and nor should there be.’

At this point it is important to clarify:  If something is deemed offensive and advocates attacking the offended party that is a very different proposition and is catered for by different legislation.  What I am referring to is taking offence simply because your feelings have been hurt or you disagree profoundly with whatever is causing the offence……

‘I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ Evelyn Beatrice Hall, 1906 (Often wrongly attributed to the French philosopher, Voltaire)

We have recently seen an increase in people being charged with causing offence for placing ‘Tweets’, comments on Facebook or, in the case of Barry Thew, a 39 year old man from Manchester, for wearing a T-Shirt bearing the slogan “One less pig, perfect justice”, shortly after the deaths of the two female Police Officers in the city.  Thew was given a 4 month sentence by a Manchester court.  Thew’s T-Shirt may have been offensive, particularly to the Manchester Constabulary and the victims families, but it did not incite violence against other Police Officers and wasn’t even very imaginative.  Had I been of the disposition to create an offensive T-Shirt I’d have probably gone for “What’s the only thing better than a dead copper?  Two”.  One can only speculate as to the sentence I’d have received; I’d have been disappointed with less than a year.  But this article has a serious point……

What is ‘Offensive’?

There is no standard scale of ‘Offensiveness’.  It is purely a subjective issue defined by the individual’s opinion.  What one person may find funny, another may find deeply offensive.  In any case ‘offence’ has no victim and cannot cause loss or harm to an individual.  ‘Offence’ is on a par with ‘Blasphemy’, another crime which causes no loss or suffering to the victim.  There should be no circumstance in which a slogan on a T-Shirt can be deemed offensive enough to attract a conviction, regardless of any offence it may cause to an individual or group of individuals; otherwise we will clog up the courts with cases that have no real validity.  One should also consider irony.  For example; I have a T-Shirt with the Coca Cola logo adapted to read ‘Cocaine’.  For all my failings Cocaine isn’t one of them; I just appreciated to artistic interpretation and the irony.  Could some anti-drug campaigner take offence at my T-Shirt?  Could I be arrested and charged with causing offence?  It’s a very subjective issue.  However, I believe that, providing there is no incitement to violence, no matter how offensive it cannot be criminal under any circumstances.  In America the pro and anti-abortion campaigners could not be any more opposed from one and other but does that mean that the campaigners wearing either pro or anti-abortion logos could face equal charges of causing offence?

The Long Arm of the Law……

The law should be adjudicated fairly in all cases.  The case mentioned earlier of the man from Manchester sentenced to four months imprisonment for causing offence with his “One less pig, perfect justice” T-Shirt, would have probably been able to walk the streets of somewhere in Surrey without being arrested and charged.  This highlights the inequality with which justice is dispensed.  Because he happened to be in Manchester during the highly emotional aftermath of the murder of the two female officers, he was charged and sentenced which in all probability would not have happened in another part of the country.  This proves the point that justice is not consistent and the personal feelings of the judges influenced their decision; hardly fair justice for all?……

An Experiment in Offence……

In light of the Jimmy Savile scandal there are numerous websites with sick jokes on them (some are quite funny as it happens) but are they ‘offensive’?  To his alleged victims they probably are but, again, they are only words and ‘sticks and stones’ as they say…….

Here are a few.  Let’s see if I can get myself arrested:

‘I don’t believe these allegations against Jimmy Savile. I met him in LeedsGeneralHospital in the 1980s and he seemed very nice.’

‘Next people will be telling me he wasn’t qualified to perform my prostate examination.’



‘They have just found Jimmy Savile’s diary.’ 

‘His last entry was about 10 years old.’



‘Now then, now then, now then.  Is that a cigar in my pocket, are am I just pleased to see you?’



‘Dear Jimmy, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please can you fix it for me to get my stammer fixed.’



‘Now then. Now then. Now then. Guys and gals. Welcome to Top of the Pops.

Straight in at thirteen …. me!’



‘Jimmy Savile’s family have had the gravestone removed along with the flowers as a mark of respect. It just leaves a small hole and no bush around it.’ 

‘Just how he would have wanted it.’


‘I’ll be waiting for the knock at the door’


‘And finally, Jimmy Savile’s victims all want justice and a big cheque.  Then Jim’ll have fixed it for them too’……


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