Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Article 127 & Freedom of Speech in the UK

Photo Credit: Markus Meechan

Photo Credit: Markus Meechan

For those who have followed the case of Chelsea Russel, the teen convicted in the UK for posting rap lyrics to her instagram, there is good news at last. In an appeal hearing on February the 22nd, Russel sucessfully had her conviction under article 127 of the 2003 Communications act overturned. This means there is now a precident set against the conviction of anyone merely for offending online, and that those who do so may yet see themselves availed of the utter lunacy that article 127's 'grossly offensive' descriptor has brought to the lives of the average UK citizen.

Unfortunately, for those of you who are celebrating this victory in regards to another famous case of freedom of speech, I have some bad news. Markus Meechan, otherwise known as Count Dankula, received a letter last week detailing his requirement to pay the £800.00 fine levied upon him, lest the government garnish his wages, and/or seize his property to recover the sum. Failing that, presumably, he will be imprisoned.

Markus is just one of 3300 people in the United Kingdom who suffered from this legislation in the past year, according to figures from UK's The Times . While Russel's case provides an argument for sanity's sake, it doesn't do much to help Markus, as the British and Scottish court systems are separate beasts. This comes six months after multiple appeals were attempted on Markus' behalf, which have been denied him by the Scottish court system.

I felt compelled to write this article for several reasons, but prime among them is this: while a small victory is a great thing, we must not lose sight of the main goal. The case of precedent for the Chelsea Russel case is a battle won, but it must be the stepping stone in a series of battles that we fight in this war against free speech. It is fine to wipe our brows of sweat in celebration of a victory won, but the toil of the fight remains and will for some time yet.

Article 127 of the Communications Act is still law throughout the United Kingdom, and for any effective change to happen, it must be either heavily modified or done away with entirely. Following that, the United Kingdom, or at least its constituent nations, need written constitutions protecting and enshrining the rights of their citizens. These are the hills that the people of the United Kingdom must press for to win their freedoms back, lest they be crushed ever further beneath the boot of an authoritarian state. Some may escape amidst the apathy, but 9 citizens a day is a number that I expect will only grow with time, as the government slowly expands just what it intends by the phrase "grossly offensive".