THE BLOG
31/01/2018 10:39 GMT | Updated 31/01/2018 10:39 GMT

'Happy #RegicideDay' Is A Silly Tweet, But Thankfully A Prosecution Is Unlikely

We should not punish a young political activist, just because they had the bad manners to speak this message out loud

Oh dear. The Liverpool University Labour Club have had to issue an apology after posting a Tweet that appeared to call for the death of Her Majesty The Queen.

The offending tweet, before it was deleted

Some people found the tweet offensive and reported it to Merseyside Police.

Bizarre at it may seem, it is possible that an offence has been committed. Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 criminalises anyone who

sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character

A tweet celebrating past and potential regicides is certainly something that many people (including magistrates) would deem to be ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘menacing’. The maximum prison sentence is six months.

Thankfully, a prosecution is unlikely. The Crown Prosecution Service guidelines on social media remind us that they also consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute, when to do so would likely chill freedom of expression.

I would be astonished if anyone were charged with an offence over this Tweet. But some hapless student in Liverpool may this week receive a visit from a policeman, which would be intolerable in itself. Section 127 urgently needs to be re-worded.

To my mind, the most ridiculous aspect to the complaints against this silly tweet is that “we did it once before, we can do it once again” is the very clear message conveyed by the statue of Oliver Cromwell that stands right outside the Houses of Parliament. Cromwell Green is situated to the West of the Palace of Westminster, facing Parliament Square. During the State Opening of Parliament, the monarch must past by the statue on their carriage ride from Buckingham Palace to the Sovereign’s Entrance under the Victoria Tower.

In other words, immediately before the most obvious and public expression of the power of the Crown, the Queen or King is confronted by an unmistakable threat of grotesque violence. “We will show you deference,” the bowed head of Cromwell seems to say, “but if you defy us, we will kill you.”

This implicit message sits at the heart of the British political system. It has been an effective check on the power of the monarch for nearly four centuries. We should not punish a young political activist, just because they had the bad manners to speak that message out loud.

Cross-posted at robertsharp.co.uk