UNITED KINGDOM: by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
Britain's political correctness lunacy
, August 4, 2012
Britain can no longer be called a free society.
The hysterical and excessive enforcement of political correctness in Britain has now reached such a pitch that the country can be regarded as in many ways neither free nor even sane.
David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government, having inherited this situation, has nor only condoned it but encouraged it to go further.
A few days ago, Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London staged a five-day trial, at taxpayers’ expense, in which a football player, John Terry, was charged with calling a black footballer, Anton Ferdinand, “black”. A criminal investigation led to Terry’s arrest and trial.
Ferdinand had not heard the word, and had also abused Terry, accusing him of, to put it politely, having committed adultery. As he had not mentioned Terry’s actual colour, he was not charged. In Orwellian style, words betraying negative emotions about racial (or religious or sexual) minorities are illegal, regardless of whether they have any influence on behaviour.
Terry was eventually acquitted because the prosecution failed to prove that he had intended to abuse Ferdinand when he mouthed the word he used.
Australian commentator Chris Berg recently reported the cases of a 21-year-old British student who was sentenced to 56 days’ jail for a few racist tweets, and of a London woman who has been sentenced to 21 weeks’ jail for racism on a train.
These are serious and potentially life-ruining sentences for minor offences which, under a sensible regime, could properly have been dealt with by small fines or cautions.
Yet custodial sentences are not imposed for thousands of far more serious crimes, including home burglary and, on one occasion, for unprovoked assault occasioning grievous bodily harm on a man in his 90s, who lost an eye.
Since 2000, UK schools have been required by law to report “racist incidents” to the authorities: 30,000 incidents were reported in 2008–09, more than half of them from primary schools.
Although 95 per cent involved only verbal abuse or name-calling, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) launched almost 3,000 prosecutions against children aged between 10 and 17 for “hate crimes”.
Apart from the penalties involved, such court appearances might easily be terrifying and shameful for well-brought-up children and their families. There is a long-established legal maxim, De minimis non curat lex (“The law does concern itself with trifles”). Moreover, in normal cases very young children are not held criminally responsible.
A 10-year-old child was arrested and brought before, not a headmaster or even a juvenile court magistrate, but a judge, for having allegedly called an 11-year-old boy of mixed race a “Paki” and “Bin Laden” during a playground argument at a primary school.
The judge, Jonathan Finestein, said: “Have we really got to the stage where we are prosecuting 10-year-old boys because of political correctness? I was repeatedly called fat at school. Does that amount to a criminal offence? This is nonsense. This is how stupid the whole system is getting. There are major crimes out there, and the police don’t bother to prosecute. If you get your car stolen, it doesn’t matter.”
The matter had been investigated by the Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester being a particularly bad area for serious crime. A statement by the accused’s mother that the two boys were now friends and played football together did not stop the prosecution proceeding.
As a result of his comments, Judge Finestein was himself fiercely attacked by teacher union leaders for “feeding a pernicious agenda”, which allegedly helped the British National Party. This attack was reminiscent of the manner of those witchcraft trials in which any persons who spoke in defence of an accused or pointed to defects in the prosecution were immediately targeted as witches and candidate for burning themselves.
The British Express newspaper, in its report of the crime, did not dare print out the fatal word, “Paki,” printing instead “P**i,” as if it were an unmentionable obscenity. Yet “Paki” is no more than a diminutive of “Pakistani”, as “Aussie” is a diminutive of “Australian”.
Previously, another child faced criminal trial and possible imprisonment because, when taunted in a school playground by an Asian child who likened him to a skunk and also to a Teletubby because of his weight, the child — then aged 10 — had retaliated by calling his adversary a “Paki bastard” and punching him twice in the back. The accused was charged with racially aggravated assault.
By the time it reached the High Court(!), the case had cost UK£25,000 of taxpayers’ money. The accused was so distressed that he had stopped attending school. It was reported that the police had advised the CPS not to prosecute, but the CPS had remained adamant. The case was eventually dropped after judicial criticism.
In another case, an 11-year-old was held for three hours in a police cell for waving a toy gun at school.
Words are not the only things that prompt police prosecution. Police also intervened when a lady displayed a collection of toy pigs in her window, on the grounds that passing Muslims might be offended. Although no charges were laid for this particular offence, the pigs were compulsorily removed.
Similarly, in another case, a garden-gnome wearing a policeman’s helmet was removed because neighbours were offended or possibly intimidated by this constabilistic manikin, whose owner, Mr Gordon MacKillop, was summonsed under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. He was woken late at night by two policemen who served him with the notice. Skull-and-crossbones flags at children’s pirate parties have also been removed, in striking contrast to the kid-glove tactics that today’s Royal Navy adopts towards real pirates off Somalia.
Those arrested and held in custody have included a schoolgirl, Codie Stott, who asked a teacher if she could sit with other English-speaking pupils to do a group assignment. It was reported that the teacher, instead of helping her, began screaming and called the police, who held the girl in a cell for several hours.
According to the Daily Mail (October 12, 2006), the school was investigating what further action to take, not against the teacher, but against Codie Stott.
Headmaster Dr Antony Edkins was reported as saying: “An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially-motivated remark made by one student towards a group of Asian students new to the school and new to the country.
“We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form.”
The Sunday Mail reported that a driver spent two nights in jail after having been accused of “revving his car in a racist manner”. Some of these actions occurred under the previous Labour government, but the present Conservative-led government has not repudiated them.
The responsibility for these acts of lunacy and, often cruelty, must rest not merely with the “jobsworths” directly responsible, but with the political leaders of both sides, who, when in government, have failed to intervene — although the Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone, the so-called Minister for Equality, has been ready enough to direct the courts to intervene on the matter of preventing Christians wearing crucifixes at work.
Prime Minister David Cameron could restore sanity to the process by the simple act of picking up a telephone.
The overall picture presented is of a government which, despite boasting a conservative majority, is pushing
political correctness to the detriment of both traditional British liberties and civilised values, under a snobbish, myopic Prime Minister oblivious to common sense, humanity or patriotism.
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer.