In November 2019 Louis Duxbury, a 22 year old university student from York, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for ‘inciting religious hatred’ under section 29E of the Public Order Act 1986. The prosecution was brought as a result of a 17 minute monologue that Duxbury uploaded to Facebook.
I can’t show you the video because the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts have effectively outlawed it as religious blasphemy. They don’t call it that of course. The preferred neologism is ‘inciting religious hatred’.
In my opinion the most offensive thing about the monologue is how boring it was. Not a single part of it could be described as a call to arms. It was an expletive riddled, unrehearsed and unsophisticated rant about muslim extremists. Duxbury knew what he was saying was likely to be regarded as offensive and bigoted, and that it could arouse the attention of the thought police, who spend more time patrolling social media than they do the streets. But being an offensive, bigot is not a crime. Nor is spouting hate. And I feel duty bound to defend his right to be an offensive, bigot. The state sees it otherwise. Regardless of whether you you think Duxbury deserved to be punished for what he said – and that’s all this is about what he said, and not something he did – there is nothing that justifies the massively disproportionate penalty he has paid for his recklessness.
As a result of the video he put up he was arrested, expelled from university, evicted from his student home, pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service for 2 years, prosecuted across 2 separate trials, convicted, sentenced to 18 months and then locked up in Humber prison. And that was the justice system just getting started, because upon release he is being hounded and tormented by North Yorkshire Police and the Probation Service, who seem determined to further his punishment.