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Was It Right to Jail Liam Stacey, the Fabrice Muamba Twitter Troll?

Posted on the 28 March 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Was it right to jail Liam Stacey, the Fabrice Muamba Twitter troll?

Twitter tributes to Fabrice Muamba flooded in from his peers after he collapsed on the pitch

Liam Stacey, a student who admitted posting racially offensive comments on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest during the FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane on 17 March, has been jailed for 56 days. Muamba, 23, is making a remarkable recovery but is still in a stable but serious condition in intensive care. The jail term for Stacey has delighted some commentators and disconcerted others.

As Muamba lay apparently dying on the field, Stacey tweeted: “LOL, F*** Muamba. He’s dead.” Unsurprisingly, his tweet upset plenty of other Twitter users. However, Stacey showed no regrets and bit back at his detractors. He tweeted: “He you are a silly c**t… Your mothers a w*g and your dad is a rapist! Bonjour you scruffy northen c***!
• owwww go suck a n****r d*** you f*****g aids ridden c**t
• go suck muamba’s dead black d**k then you aids ridden t**t! #muambasdead
• go rape your dog! #C**t!
• I aint your friend you w*g c**t ….go pick some cotton!”

A district judge in Swansea called the comments “vile and abhorrent,” reported the BBC. Sentencing Stacey at Swansea Magistrates’ Court, District Judge John Charles told him: “In my view, there is no alternative to an immediate prison sentence.”

Here, here, the Stacey jailing sends a powerful message to other mindless trolls. In an editorial, The Sun said Stacey has paid the “price of hate.” “Stacey has wrecked his life with a drunken tweet,” boomed The Sun. “His racist outburst about Fabrice Muamba has landed him in jail, destroyed his university career and left his family distraught. His job prospects are slim. It is a heavy price. But it sends a powerful message to other mindless trolls who spread illegal hatred on the web. You may feel safe tweeting in the comfort of your home. Publish your poisonous prejudices online and you won’t be for long.”

BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: “Let it be a warning to all you immature souls. #thinkbeforeyoutweet”

Wrong to jail the idiot. “Mr Stacey is, I hope you’d agree, an idiot,” wrote Tom Chivers at The Telegraph. “Or at the very least, when he is catastrophically drunk (as he apparently was, after Wales won the grand slam in the rugby Six Nations), he behaves like a prize idiot; perhaps in sober day-to-day life he’s perfectly intelligent. But does he deserve to be jailed? … For Mr Stacey, a lifetime of being an idiot is probably punishment enough.” Chivers said that “while I despise Stacey’s ‘banter’ and think it is a prime example of why the word needs to be rejected by all right-thinking people and left to rot with simpletons like him … it’s wrong to jail him, when perpetrators of other, by any measure far more terrible, crimes walk from the court.”

Absurd, comical decision.  At a Telegraph blog, Ed West lamented that “when race becomes an issue, all sense goes out of the window.” West said Stacey’s tweets were “despicable, of course, and society should shun him. But two months in jail? If you ever type in ‘suspended sentence UK’ into Google News you’ll see just how many serious – and repeat – offenders escape custodial sentences in this country. It’s a strange phenomenon that whenever race becomes a factor in anything, people lose their ability to reason. Remember how we gave up double jeopardy – an essential protection that the English had enjoyed for 900 years – because of a racist murder. The Macpherson report, which brought this terrible change about, even suggested that the Government should make it a crime to make racist remarks in the home. As Boris Johnson noted at the time, even in Ceauşescu’s Romania people were free to say what they wanted inside their own homes.” West said “this ridiculous case we have the absurd, comical conclusion of the Left’s obsession with ‘hate crimes’ – sending people to jail for saying nasty things.”

Twitter is not an extended pub conversation. Tom Chivers of The Telegraph argued that the Stacey case should act as a stark reminder to Twitter users that what they tweet can travel well beyond their own followers:  “ … when Stacey tweeted his nasty little tweets about Muamba, even though he was probably only being followed by a couple of hundred people at most, it shot around the internet, because people who were genuinely concerned about the life of a young man read them with shock. They were spotted by Stan Collymore, the football commentator who has recently worked to highlight racist abuse on Twitter, and gained more publicity still.” Chivers said, “people think of Twitter as a sort of extended pub conversation, or private chatroom, but in theory it could be seen by millions of people: it is a publishing tool which can reach as many people as any newspaper or television channel, if the author’s luck is good or bad enough.”

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