Briton sentenced to community service over ‘objectionable’ tweets

A Twitter user found guilty in a UK court of posting a “grossly offensive” tweet about a war veteran has reportedly been sentenced to 150 hours of community service.

Joseph Kelly, a 36-year-old man from Glasgow, last year published a tweet about Captain Sir Thomas Moore, a British war veteran who became a national icon in 2020 for raising money for healthcare workers.

“The only good British soldier is an act, Burn auld fella buuuuurn,” Kelly wrote on Twitter in February 2021, the day after Moore’s death.

Kelly was drunk, regretted sending the tweet almost immediately and then deleted it after about 20 minutes, his lawyer Tony Callahan said, according to Scottish newspaper The National.

“His delinquency level was a drunken post at a time when he was struggling emotionally, which he regretted and removed almost immediately,” Callahan reportedly said, adding that Kelly only had a handful of followers at the time.

“He accepts that he was wrong,” Callahan added. “He didn’t expect what was going to happen. He took steps almost immediately to delete the tweet, but by then the genie was out of the bottle.”

“The only good British soldier is a deed, Burn auld fella buuuuurn,” Joseph Kelly reportedly wrote after the death of Captain Sir Thomas Moore.
PA Images via Getty Images

Still, British prosecutors have been pushing for a jail sentence under a controversial British law that punishes online posts that are “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or threatening character” with up to six months in prison.

Sheriff Adrian Cottam, who was responsible for Kelly’s conviction, reportedly told the court his punishment was important for “deterrence.”

“It’s important for other people to realize how quickly things can get out of control,” Cottam reportedly said. “You’re a good example of not having many followers.”

Scottish dish
“As soon as you hit the blue button, that’s it,” said Sheriff Adrian Cottam, who sentenced Kelly.
PA Images via Getty Images

“The deterrent really is showing people that despite the steps you took to remember things, once you hit the blue button, that’s it,” Cottam added.

Kelly was found guilty under Section 127 of the UK Communications Act, which is set to be replaced by the country’s comprehensive Online Safety Act. But critics fear the new legislation will also result in prosecutions similar to Kelly’s, with citizens slapped with harsh penalties for messages deemed “harmful” based on vague notions of public morality.

Other Britons convicted under the same law as Kelly include a law student who was sentenced to community service for sending racist messages to a football player and a woman who posted Holocaust denial songs on YouTube. Briton sentenced to community service over ‘objectionable’ tweets


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