Let’s all stop this nonsense about the word “cunt”

OK, look everybody. I know it is appealing to think that John Graham Kerlen – “Olly Cromwell” has been convicted for using the word “cunt”, and that now the word “cunt” is illegal on Twitter, but that really is NOT the point.

The fact is that Kerlen was found guilty under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 for a communication which included a photograph of a public figure’s house, and was followed by the words, “feel free to post actual shit”

In fact, I’d suggest that if Kerlen had substituted the word “cunt” with the word “councillor”, he would still have been convicted.

“Which councillor lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to #bexleycouncil”

But here’s the thing…

Do we really think that Kerlen represented a threat? If he had been genuinely harrassing the council, shouldn’t he have been tried subject to the harrassment law under which he was originally arrested? If he had been genuinely encouraging his followers to post faeces through the letterbox of this councillor, shouldn’t he have been tried for inciting criminal damage? Another charge for which he was originally arrested.

Is there the tiniest possibility that the CPS realised that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to secure a conviction on either of these charges, and instead opted for a charge under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 as an easy way to secure a conviction?

If this is the case, then we should be very worried. This means that section 127 is now recognised as an easy way to secure a conviction when you know that an alternative charge would never pass an evidential test.

Policital Blogger Olly Cromwell Found Guilty Under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003

Political Blogger “Olly Cromwell” (real name John Graham Kerlen) of the Bexley area was today found guilty of sending a grossly offensive communication subject to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, at Bexley Magistrate’s Court.

Cromwell posted two tweets which were the subject of today’s prosecution.

Cromwell first posted a photograph of Bexley concillor Melvin Seymour’s home, accompanied by the text:

“Which cunt lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to #bexleycouncil”

The tweet was later followed by another tweet:

“It’s silly posting a picture of a house on Twitter without an address, that will come later. Please feel free to post actual shit”

It appears to have been the prosecution’s assertion that Cromwell was encouraging his followers to post faeces through the letterbox of the address in the photograph.

Cromwell himself posted the full details of the prosecution disclosure and the witness statement on this blog here http://www.youve-been-cromwelled.org/?p=3064

Cromwell had previously been charged with harrassment of Bexley Concillors over his blog. It appears that these charges never appeared in court. http://www.youve-been-cromwelled.org/?p=2211 This latest case appears to a continuation of legal attempts to silence or moderate Cromwell’s online activities.

Cromwell had also posted a blog post in May 2011 “The Bitter and Twisted Guided Tour – Tour of Cuntsville – Coming Soon!” containing a list of home addresses for various Bexley councillors http://www.youve-been-cromwelled.org/?p=2526

Cromwell appears to style himself in the mould of political bloggers such as Guido Fawkes, which I suppose explains the adopted name. The question in front of the court today was whether Cromwell’s somewhat confrontational style had overstepped the bounds of decency. To quote the defence at today’s hearing, Cromwell would have needed to go “beyond the pale of what is tolerable in our society” in order to be found guilty.

An excellent blog post on the facts of today’s hearing from an eyewitness can be found here. http://bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/blogs/2012/april.shtml#13pt2

What is striking is that despite the defence requesting for sentencing to be decided to today, the District Judge instead decided to set a sentencing hearing at Bromley Magistrates Court on Wednesday 9th May at 13:30, with a representative of the Probation service present. This raises a question as to whether a custodial sentence may be given. An offence under s127 of the Communication Acts 2003 can lead to a custodial sentence of up to 6 months.

Taken in isolation, Olly Cromwell’s tweets are fairly inoffensive. the question is whether the cumulative effect of Cromwell’s activities is sufficient to give the tweets the requisite offensive or menacing context required by section 127.

An interesting case, to be sure.

Another blog on the hearing can be found here:
http://spiderplantland.co.uk/sir-olly-c-and-the-case-for-free-speech-in-bexley/