Has Nick Griffin broken the law?
Nick Griffin was highly irresponsible and nasty when he Tweeted, yesterday, the address of the gay couple that sued the B&B owners last year. Along with their address, he appeared to suggest that his followers – online and offline – appear outside the couple’s address to ‘cause drama’.
He is, of course, the latest in a long line of people Tweeting stupid things, confused by the difference between public and private spheres. A campaign calling for a police investigation into whether Grffin is guilty of incitement to homophobic hatred or violence has been started.
I’m not a legal expert, but I guess any prosecution would fall under either the Public Order Act of 1986 or perhaps the Communications Act 2003. For what it’s worth, I think prosecution is unlikely. The 1986 Act explicitly protects freedom of expression. The discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct is not itself considered illegal under the Act. Moreover, precedent suggests that hate speech in public may be accepted as legitimate expression if the audience are ‘likeminded’, (Griffin got off on this in defence in 2007).
I’m not convinced ‘cause drama’ could be succesfully argued to be sufficiently likely to have the intention of stiring up homophobic hatred among the public, or likely to cause violence.
What he might be guilty of, however, is the the European Directive on Data Protection (95/45/EC), which requires the ‘unambiguous consent’ of the subject before ‘personal data’ can be shared. Then again, so would everyone who subsequently Tweeted Griffin’s personal address, and most of us on Facebook in fact.
The law is an ass. So is Griffin. Probably best to leave it at that for now.