UK

Katie Hopkins 'Dirty Rodents' Tweet About Palestinians 'Could Result In Prosecution'

12/11/2014 17:17 GMT | Updated 13/11/2014 02:59 GMT

Katie Hopkins is facing calls for her prosecution for her latest tweet that described Palestinians as "dirty rodents" - and one lawyer says it could happen.

The controversy-courting Hopkins sent her most offensive message to date when she tweeted: "2 state solution my arse. Filthy rodents burrowing beneath Israel. Time to restart the bombing campaign."

It led to calls for her to be prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred. But while unpopular tweets routinely prompt others to call for criminal charges, this one could have legs.

Media lawyer Steve Kuncewicz has said a prosecution is possible if a complaint to police were made - but, if it happened, it would be more likely to be a racially-aggravated breach of the Public Order Act, which forbids public behaviour that causes others "harassment, alarm or distress".

He said prosecutions for posting to Twitter had to go through "a lot of hurdles" and the Crown Prosecution Service decide not only that a conviction was likely but that it was in the public interest.

He said any police investigation would have to look at it "very carefully" and consider issues such as the right to free expression under the European Convention of Human Rights.

He also said there were aggravating factors - including the fact she had not apparently shown any remorse - that could make authorities want to "make an example of her".

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  • "There's enough there for a prosecutor to make something out of," he said. "She has got a lot of followers. She's very visible. That might be enough."

    Liam Stacey, who was imprisoned for 56 days in 2012 when he tweeted racist abuse to footballer Fabrice Muamba, was prosecuted under the Public Order Act. He sent abusive messages calling him and others the n-word.

    Mr Kuncewicz pointed out that Hopkins' tweet was not aimed at a particular individual, making it less likely hers could be demonstrated to have caused the "harassment, alarm or distress" the Act requires.

    But he added the Act could be the best way for any prosecution to proceed, rather than the Communications Act, under which people have been prosecuted for sending "menacing" tweets.

    People prosecuted under this law include Peter Nunn, who harassed MP Stella Creasy and feminist Caroline Criado-Perez after they backed a campaign to put Jane Austen on the banknote. He was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison.

    "(The Public Order Act) is a better peg to hang it on. It's more straight-forward. It's been there for years. It has a history of being applied in this way," he added.

    "In the Twitter Joke Trial, a judge was asked to decide whether something was menacing and lots of people took issue with that."