In The Drum in April I talked about a 21-year-old British student who was sentenced to 56 days jail for a few racist tweets. Well, now a London woman has been sentenced to 21 weeks jail for being racist on a train.
What these two people said was disgusting, no doubt about it. They were both extremely drunk. But the idea that you can be sent to jail – and for such a long time – simply for being offensive is repugnant to the rule of law and freedom of speech. It is excessive and illiberal.
And with the rise of the racial and religious vilification laws in Australia we’re travelling in that direction. The right not to be offending is trampling our right to freedom of speech.