Deyka Hassan – (Yet) Another Tweeting Prosecution

Another day,
another person arrested for careless tweeting. As news of the
horrific events in Woolwich broke last week,
Deyka Hassan, a 21 year old student at Kingston
University
, tweeted
people wearing
Help for Heroes T-shirts “deserve to be
beheaded”
.
She then received a variety of online abuse, including death
threats, threats to burn her house and to rape her. As a result of
this she went to report the threats to her local police
station where she was arrested in relation to the original tweet.
She was charged with an offence under s127 Malicious Communications Act
1988
to which she pleaded guilty earlier this week.
She was sentenced on 7th June 2013 to a Community Order with a requirement of
completing 250 hours unpaid work. Whilst in avoiding prison, she
could be considered fortunate compared to many people in the same
position who have ended up in prison, she has picked up a criminal
record which could have long lasting consequence. From the news
reports, it seems that Ms Hassan accepted that the tweet was
‘grossly offensive’ for the purposes of the act – all that
is required is to send an ‘electronic communication’ that is
‘grossly offensive’. It seems that the Court accepted that Ms
Hassan did not know that Mr Rigby was a soldier ‘and had
intended it to be a jokey criticism of the design of the
T-shirt
‘. Given that Ms Hassan pleaded guilty (thereby
accepting that she had sent a ‘grossly offensive’ message), the
Court had to deal with her and this sentences appears to be in line
with those sentences handed out to other people.  
Comment Should this case have been
prosecuted? Can it really be in the public interest to give her a
criminal record? It was a one-line, off the cuff comment that could
easily have been ignored by anyone who came across it (Ms Hassan
had 600 twitter followers). Even if it is ‘grossly offensive’ (and
I have my doubts), is this a proper restriction on her right to
express her views? It seems to me that someone sending a tweet
threatening to kill or rape someone is far more serious than what
Ms Hassan tweeted, but those people don’t appear to have been dealt
with. Another point is that we are constantly told of the need for
austerity. Leaving aside the cost of prosecuting Ms Hassan –
thousands of pounds, the cost of supervising the Community
Order
will be £5,500, which is paid for by us, the
taxpayer. Is that a good use of public resources? My view, and this
is my personal view, is that this is a scandalous waste of
public money. As a lawyer who is currently being told by the
Ministry of Justice that defence lawyers waste money and we need to cut back on spending, the
fact that ten grand or so has been spent on this seems a good place
to start making cutbacks.

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This entry was posted in In the news on by .

About Dan Bunting

I'm a lawyer who works for myself. Legal geek, maths freak, general dullard and jack of all trades. Here’s a few views on law and occasional musings on life. Usual caveats about not relying on anything I say etc applies.

8 thoughts on “Deyka Hassan – (Yet) Another Tweeting Prosecution

  1. John Allman

    “She … received a variety of online abuse, including death threats, threats to burn her house and to rape her. As a result of this she went to report the threats to her local police station where she was arrested in relation to the original tweet.”

    The police officer who arrested her, the CPS staff member who decided to prosecute, the lawyer who let her plead guilty, the lawyer who presented any evidence, and the magistrates, all deserve to be beheaded.

    Reply
    1. Sisterhood (@sisterhooduk)

      This is a difficult one but couldn’t they have dealt with both the “offensiveness” of her tweet and the subsequent tweet threats (twitter morti) to kill her etc. That way justice would have seen to be more even handed.

      Reply
  2. Tom (iow)

    Confusingly there are two offences of sending a grossly offensive message. The one in the Malicious Communications Act 1988 requires that the purpose be to cause distress or anxiety. The one in the Communications Act 2003 does not require intent, but has been limited by Chambers v DPP so that it should not apply to jokes or other day to day speech.

    From the BBC report it seems that Miss Hassan was charged under the 1988 Act, which means that she pleaded guilty despite the court apparently accepting she was innocent. Yet the magistrate still implied she was close to being jailed and that she would have been if she had known it was a solider. That for is the most chilling aspect as it is direct state interference in the opinions people can express over their views of arms of the state.

    Her joke was not particularly ill-advised and would not have been out of place on Have I Got News for You from someone like Jo Brand or Frankie Boyle. It’s a fairly standard set-up: you say someone should be shot for a reason that on the face of it is unacceptable or amounts to a serious reason, then reveal that that the actual reason you are biased against them is something else that’s too stupid for anyone to care about, such as they were wearing an unfashionable hat. Only someone with a serious intellectual disability could mistake that set-up for any kind of threat to kill.

    The police don’t seem to have understood yet that they ultimately *lost* the Chambers case. It’s unbelievable to me that it can become an imprisonable offence to tell standard forms of joke over an internet connection, when those jokes are a normal part of the culture and are shown regularly on TV. Yet we’ve seen a considerable number of prosecutions to date now. Article 10 says that restrictions on free expression must be according to law and necessary in a democratic society, and I’ve seen no clear evidence that either test is satisfied in these cases.

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    Diana, perhaps the people who threatened to rape her have not handed themselves in at the nick as she did . . .

    John: if I were you I would not joke on this subject. Not in today’s Britain.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Woolwich ‘joke’ tweeter avoids jail term | Kevin Poulter

  5. Pingback: Another Day, Another Facebook Prosecution (Michaela Turner) | UK Criminal Law Blog

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