back to article Welsh blogger fined over 'menacing' plod blog

A Welsh blogger has been fined £150 by magistrates in Mold, Clywd, for posting an apparently menacing message about a policeman on his blog. Gavin Brent, 24, from Holywell, Flintshire, was found guilty under the Telecommunications Act and must pay the fine and £364 in costs. He said his post was not meant to be offensive and …


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  1. Pete Silver badge

    sign of the times

    When everything that gets written is open to misinterpretation.

    When everything is interpreted in the worst possible way

    When there's no such thing as "too much" security

    When people are afraid of anything out of the ordinary

    When an apology is no longer enough

    When legal action is the first step, not the last

  2. N1AK

    He needed a better Lawyer

    Looking at the Act and the fine he was given he must of been prosecuted under Section 43:

    43. Improper use of public telecommunication system—(1) A person who—

    (a) sends, by means of a public telecommunication system, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

    (b) sends by those means, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, a message that he knows to be false or persistently makes use for that purpose of a public telecommunication system,

    It is likely that the prosecutions case would be based on his blog post being of "menacing character". Although the act is flawed (in my opinion) for not requiring intent for part a, I would think a decent Lawyer could make a very compelling case for why his comment although derogatory was not menacing when read correctly.

  3. Shane Lusby


    How can you not read that as "God you're a prick and I feel sorry for any kid thats going to be raised by you", I mean sure its insulting but its pretty obviously meant as an insult not a threat.

  4. Kevin Mac Uistin

    "God help all new-born babies"

    This story actually proves the welsh lad right, if he can be arrested for saying something with no threatening language, then God help all new-born babies.

    I do realise anything can be taken as threatening or negative if taken out of context, for example, "I like your new television" could be taken as "I'm about to steal your television", but these misunderstanding are usually only by complete idiots.

    There really should be something in law that protects from context misinterpretation in written comments. Issues in the context of comments must be something that has been around for centuries, but is now exaggerated by blogs, and that they are written by people without restriction, and available for all to see.

    So what I’m really trying to get at is that I want the law system to use common sense. By simply warning the man about his comments and asking for an apology they could have saved the tax payer a lot of money, and I bet his £150 did not cover it.

  5. Dan K

    Hurtful words on the internet?!

    Disgusting. Freedom of speech? Disgusting.

  6. Steve

    sounds threatening to me

    What context was it supposed to be taken in, the PC is off work on paternity leave and he finds this post saying that. I think I'd consider it threatening as well.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    @Kevin Mac Uistin

    "So what I’m really trying to get at is that I want the law system to use common sense."

    It is designed so that it does most of the time. Recent updates have however started to erode the judgement part of the judges' remit by consitutionalising the law (in much the same way as the US is set up...) and not allowing for a case-by-case common sense approach. If the law were as clearly defined as the government seem to be trying to make it at the moment there would be no need for judges at all. They are being phased out of sentencing (with home office "guidelines"), out of the necessity for intent (see the "lyrical terrorist") and out of the process of due course.

    OTOH it would appear that the magistrates above were in the position to have used common sense and chose not to go down that path. That means that either a) they have no good judgement for cases like this or b) they may simply not have believed that this chap was not being threatening. This is the problem with the ambiguity - do we assume that because as calm, reasonable people that the chap who posted the comment was in a similar frame of mind? Or do we look at the case and its merits and, using a legal system built over centuries, come to a decision on a case-by-case basis?

    Hm, lots of rambling there. Sorry. Short version is I think the legal system is pretty much OK, although it has taken a beating over the last couple of decades.

  8. Gordon Pryra

    A dirty little thieve being supported by El Reg readers?

    Surely a nasty little thieve should not be protected by us.

    Freedom of speech does not allow you to write hurtful things about someone else.

    You have the freedom to say whatever you want unless its lies or harmful to another person.

    Maybe that’s not the law, but its common sense.

    To all the idiots above me, spouting about his right to post someone’s name and then insult them.

    Grow up and think about what you’re actually saying.

    You are taking the side of someone who stole, then got busted. Then personally attacked the policeman who, was indirectly protecting YOU.

    I would have handled things differently, If someone had posted that about me and my wife, the little scrote’s teeth would have had a visit from “Mr Lumphammer”

  9. Anonymous Coward

    @ Gordon Pryra

    RE: A dirty little thieve being supported by El Reg readers?

    He also has the right to be treated as Innocent until proven Guilty, and as the case hasn't yet been dealt with, his Guilt shouldn't be assumed.

    Also, where ever did you get the idea that we have freedom of speech in the UK?

    It might be a right enshrined in the US constitution, but it's not in UK law.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    You seem to believe that being arrested by the police is the same thing as being guilty of the offence. God help all of us when that becomes the case. Until then, the bloke is innocent unless convicted

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Gordon Pryra

    Although I do agree that he is a a knob, he should be allowed to express his own opinions.

    But your response would be a prime example of an overreaction to a non-threatening situation, and you would be incarcerated.

    That fact that he committed a prior crime should be ultimately unrelated to how he was treated following his blog entry. And freedom of speech does allow you to make opinions about other people as long as you do not cast aspersions about that persons character. And is this not what Kevin MacUistin was talking about.

    As a reasonable person and "grown-up" I do not throw a wobbly when called names, is that what so called grown-ups do? I think that you are labeling people instead of forming a fully formed argument.

  12. Spleen

    Jesus H Christ

    I may be missing something since I only have the Reg's quote to go on, but I read that as "Although I have a complaint against your organisation, as an individual human being with a newborn baby I wish you well as I would wish anyone well."

    And from the look of this thread, only half a dozen comments in, the police's "look for a crime in everything" mentality has infected El Reg readers as well. Disgusting, absolutely disgusting. Doubtless the same people will go off their rocket the next time someone is sacked for saying 'chairman' or 'niggardly', but the fact is that it's the same issue. It's not "political correctness gone mad", which means nothing, it's the deliberate inferral of negative meaning from outwardly innocent remarks for no other reason than to give you a ladder to the moral high ground. It's choking out speech and poisoning our society.

  13. Kevin Mac Uistin

    @Anonymous Coward: @Kevin Mac Uistin

    I do agree with you, I'm was just saying that common sense does not seem to have prevailed in this case.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just because you've been arrested for one offence doesn't mean that you committed another.

    Besides, we all know what bastards the pigs can be, arresting someone is just an excuse to give them a kicking. The guy was probably originally just a bit rude to them.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    The clue is in the "freedom" bit

    Gordon: "Freedom of speech does not allow you to write hurtful things about someone else."

    Actually, it does. It's kind of like allowing you to call him "a nasty little thieve" (sic).

    Does he have the right to come round to your house with a lumphammer for being hurtful?

    I think the variety of responses here demonstrates that his comments were open to interpretation in a number of ways, and perhaps that the principle of the law should not rely on the most unfavourable possible inference of the reader (given that we couldn't trust the stated implication of the writer).

    For one who praises the police so much, I find it odd that you are suggesting extreme vigilante violence for a mere form of words.

    God help your children, sir, god help them.

  16. geoff

    i wonder

    why was the officer looking at his blog i wonder.

    i would think he would be too busy what with new baby and all.

  17. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Freedom of speech does not allow you to write hurtful things about someone else.

    Actually, yes it does. You can indeed say these things and you can accept the consequences of them, if they then cause actual problems. Shouting "fire" in a cinema is the classic; the act of the shout itself is freedom of speech, but the subsequent charges for multiple manslaughter resulting from people being trampled to death are the responsibility you need to take for acting on your freedom to yell stupid things. The criminal act in this case was not the speech itself but the choice to do it in that particular spot.

    Or, to put it another way, if you shout fire in a crowded cinema and nobody gives a damn, are you guilty of anything? By your idea, you are.

    Freedom of speech is absolute necessary. If you start saying that people are free to speak as long as it's not "insulting" or whatever then you no longer have freedom of speech, and without freedom of speech you are no longer free to live your life as you see fit, nor criticise the government, or "corporate interests", or whatever. Without freedom of speech you are a slave to the whims of the people who decide what is "reasonable".

    Now common sense, of course, is a whole different matter but that's a case of personal scruples. The day they start legislating common sense is the day I give up on humanity. Oh wait, they already do.

    The one with the ticket for Mars in the pocket, please.

  18. Gav

    Someone inform the police

    I can see at least two posts here that can clearly be taken as threats to all new-born children, or as a threat to kill everyone everywhere. Let's all be more careful about what were saying, shall we?

    Let me make it clear that I'm not threatening anyone in saying this. I do not intend to take any action against anyone who isn't careful, or against any of their family or acquaintances. I can't spell this out more emphatically. (But I wouldn't hold it against myself if it was indeed possible to make this clearer. This post should not be taken as a threat to commit self-harm.)

    Hope everyone understands what I mean. Not that I intend any criticism of those who don't.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Your all gonna Die!*

    mearly a reminder of our mortallity.

    (*in no way constitiutes a threat)

    AC just in case!

  20. Anonymous Coward

    He is lucky

    I'm surprised he wasnt shot in the head 7 times and then accused of being a terrorist, maybe the police over there have gone soft.

  21. Tim Donovan

    Wait a minute

    Ok, I've read through the replies and there are a lot of people getting all high and mighty about how we are losing our rights/the police are pigs (JonB - bad experience?) and so on.

    Does anyone who has commented so far know the bloke in question? For all you know he could've used threatening language at the time of arrest or he could be known by the police (he's only been mentioned as having stolen on this one occasion)

    What if he does have a violent past? Does that change the context of the quote?

    And the apology? I've had a mate beat up in Liverpool before now and the attacker has told the bobbies that he was going over to apologise before having another go so I'm slightly sceptical of that bit.

    So yes, I think he could have been justified and the real question is:

    If you saw that posted somewhere with your name on it about a guy yould had to have a disagreement with, how would you react?

  22. bothwell
    Thumb Down

    @Gordon Pryra

    I find your words offensive and threatening. I hope you get arrested for them, since nobody has the right to just say whatever the hell they want with no restriction. :[

    @geoff: why was the officer looking at his blog i wonder.

    i would think he would be too busy what with new baby and all.

    Heh, I thought exactly the same thing. Maybe the officer was, like, following him around everywhere, hoping to tack more offenses onto his sheet? Isn't that persecution of some sort?

  23. ImaGnuber


    "It's choking out speech and poisoning our society"

    Best comment.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @Tim Donovan

    This does not address the point of context or free speech, just that you and your friends have had a bad experience in the capital of culture.

    Your comments also highlight how context misunderstandings can be driven by experience, and I imagine the Police man with the new baby may have been over tired when he made a decision to make an issue of the blog entry.

    Most of the previous comments are simply saying that we should all be allowed to express thoughts and opinions, or do you disagree?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tim Donovan

    >JonB - bad experience?

    Indeedy, I've seen someone arrested for that very offence. The abusive language was a "fucking" used as emphasis and the "arrest" was just a violent attack.

    >For all you know he could've used threatening language at

    >the time of arrest

    Maybe but that's not the charge.

    BTW can you imagine the police doing anything if they heard someone threatening you? It seems this law only exists for their enjoyment.

    > or he could be known by the police

    He probably is, rounding up people the police don't like on tenuous charges isn't what we want the police doing though is it?

    >What if he does have a violent past? Does that change the context of the quote?

    No, his past is irrelevant to the charge.

  26. Charlie

    @ "@ Gordon Pryra "

    The Human Rights Act 1998, putting into effect the European Convention on Human RIghts, does enshrine a right of freedom of speech in UK law.

    It may only be a mitigated right, but it is there.

  27. Tonto Popaduopolos

    Grow up people!

    This case was put before a Magistrate. The gentleman in question has had his day in court. He would have had the opportunity to put his side of the story. The court clearly saw that there was sufficient evidence to convict.


  28. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Grow up people!

    Right. Because no court judgement should ever be questioned.

  29. Tim Donovan


    Of course people should have a right ot free speech, but not to threaten a new born (as this could've been taken)


    You appear to ahve a real chip on youir shoulder with the country's police force and I'm not willing to go into the reasons as to why, however, I have a couple of mates who are officers and they're on the whole a good bunch who do their jobs just like the rest of us and I feel it's a bit generalist of you to lump all plods together.

    And you say that a violent past is irrelevant to the charge? I disagree as that can affect the whole point in what someone says, from a comment to a threat...

    And yes, I've seen the police react when someone has been threatened due to the fact that it is their job and also that their presence can cool a situation down.

  30. Pete Silver badge

    re: grow up people! (Magistrate's court)

    A Magistrate's court is the lowest form of court. It is run either by three JP's or a single judge, depending where in the country you are. Forget any notions about juries, or well-formed, incisive legal argument, this is much closer to "<ding> next please!" than the foundations of our legal system.

    If you're up before the Justices of the Peace, you're effectively sitting in front of three citizens. They have been on a couple of courses to explain what their powers are and to give them the briefest veneer of english law.

    They have no legal training.

    If something complicated comes up, they have someone in court to advise them on points of law. However THEY ARE JUST NORMAL PEOPLE. If they could get in to a decent club, they'd probably spend their days playing golf, instead of reading the Daily Mail and handing out arbitrary justice, depending on how they feel that particular day.

    Idea: go to a court for a day, see them in action (anyone can just walk in off the street). You'll never think about law the same way again.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tim Donovan

    >You appear to have a real chip on your shoulder with the country's police force

    I do, I find them lazy, self serving, abusive and on occasion violent. Although see below.

    >Bit generalist of you to lump all plods together.


    >they're on the whole a good bunch

    You counter my generalisation with a generalisation?

    I can only refer to the police I see, there are police that I haven't seen, they could be different.

    >And you say that a violent past is irrelevant to the charge?

    >I disagree as that can affect the whole point in what someone

    >says, from a comment to a threat...

    No, past convictions can't be used to imply guilt in a fresh charge.

    Although the police would like it to no doubt.

    >And yes, I've seen the police react when someone has been threatened

    No, not "react", actually arrest someone for threatening behaviour without any violence even looking likely. Then rather than caution them, go for a full prosecution?

    Where the victim isn't the police or connected to them of course.

    Anyone got a case history DB handy? This should be an easy search.

  32. Tim Donovan

    @ JonB

    To be fair I can't really compare your experience of police ot my own but when I was attacked (many, many years ago) they were pretty spot on although recently I have had another expereince of them and found them not as helpful as they could be so I suppose you do have a point.

    Fair point on the generalisation thing, although i was referring to my mates, not the police force as a whole.

    How can there be threatening behaviour without voilence looking likely? The very idea of a threat is surely to imply violence?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tim Donovan

    >How can there be threatening behaviour without voilence looking likely?

    >The very idea of a threat is surely to imply violence?

    True, you would have thought it impossible.

    Yet that appears to be the case in the article, I don't think violence looked

    likely there although the guy probably did intend to intimidate.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    While it seems pretty clear that no threat was intended, I'd imagine that from the cop's point of view it's pretty disquieting to have your name put about like that - brings a personally-directed element into it. And bringing his child into it seems a bit dubious. It just seems pretty ill-considered, in my opinion - the idea that it's OK to do whatever you want on the Internet and there will be no real-life reaction. If he has an issue with his treatment shouldn't he have gone to the IPCC or whatever?

  35. AllGonePeteTong

    Big Brother is Watching...

    ...and will twist anything you say to suit their needs. Because this poor schmuck's inability to clarify his comment's in sufficient English, they have been left open to interpretation by the Gestapo.

    As for menacing; I think that term really applies to the UK Government and the Nazi bullsh*t they're pulling on the British public.

    Rule Britannia...with an iron fist.

  36. Gary

    If the cap fits-----

    I believe all our posters who are approving of this individuals actions should put themselves in the position of the officer and his family. Guilt or innocence is not the issue here, the actions of the accused subsequent to his arrest are. I spent time as a police officer and was subject to similar crap. I dealt with it in my own way which is no business of anyone but myself and the person threatening. Before condemning the DC who complained about this scrote, apply my buddie's maxim. Before judging a man walk a mile in his boots. (Police or aotherwise!)


  37. Spleen

    Oldie but a goodie

    "Before judging a man walk a mile in his boots."

    Very good idea, as then you're a mile away from the plod and he's got no boots.

    Mine's the really old and tatty one.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Wake up ! grow up! scary country

    Having carefully read the article it would appear that the man was apologetic and sympathised with the "wronged" officer, and offering to put in a clear retraction.however EXACTLY what kind of officer is this that has to go all the way to a court to "nail his man" - bit easily traumatised for my liking, bit too "new man" as well - paternity leave ? what - that is more important than your job of maintaining law and order? these new coppers are total cardboard cut-outs pulling the law to favour themselves ALWAYS.

    In the bad old days they'd give you a thick ear and be done with it. Hell I remember being threatened, bullied and beaten up in a police station in Bangor North Wales for no crime at all, and no apologies at all either, trust me on this one all you do gooders out there just you wait until you have an unsolicited run in with those pantomime fairies in their blue garb , incessant need for fancy blue lights and racy cars, they are just fucked up failed bullies that need the backing of the law to build them up again. you know the abused become the abusers etc....

    Yeah let me rant on a bit more, do you know about the training they are given ? how to provoke situations to create an arrestable offence ? the psychological books they study and their interpretation's of different races and cultures according to their special studies materials? those of you with "friends" in the farce, go on - ask them - try them also on the profiling techniques they have already used on YOU their civvy "mate"

    For those of you who are acquainted with the blue ones - GET A REALITY CHECK because you would certainly get arrested and securely convicted with your new views after that little exercise.

    And the guy in court? no. I am NOT supporting him - but you really should understand that the UK is a damned unpleasant police state and best everybody stops making them out to be nice people, the sooner these filthy posterial cavities

    get the message the sooner they will HAVE to change their racist, violent and bullying attitude, or their "sorry mate can't help you" approach when someone has whacked you on the head with a blunt instrument then stamped on your face with their boots having failed to mug you.

    Paris - because like the blue blobbies she also got rogered in public - and deserved it.

  39. Taskis

    Call me overly critical...

    No doubt repeating a few points already made, but here goes:

    @ Gordon Pryra:

    He's not a "nasty little thie[f]" until a court's found him guilty, which as I understand it is not yet. He's innocent until the legal system finds him guilty.

    << If someone had posted that about me and my wife, the little scrote’s teeth would have had a visit from “Mr Lumphammer” >>

    That sort of stupid attitude is exactly *why* we have problems when it comes to free speech here: the British seem to have lost all sense of restraint, and when faced with uncertainty all too often respond with mindless violence. Ridiculously out-of-proportion violence, too, just as in your case here. Just attacking the chap wouldn't be enough to satisfy your vigilante bloodlust: you wouldn't be happy with less than a lump hammer? Pathetic.

    It wouldn't be so bad if you were a one-off, but sadly the same kind of mindset pervades this country at the moment: verbal insult, mild threat, or "lookin' at me funny, innit" has to be met with full-force brutality. Sure, yours were only words on a website - but am I supposed to believe you didn't mean them literally?

    @ JonB

    << Besides, we all know what bastards the pigs can be, arresting someone is just an excuse to give them a kicking. >>

    I won't try to repeat the discussion you've already had with Tim Donovan about your view of the police. It's enough to know that you're prepared to tar every officer in Britain with the brush of the bad apple(s) you've had experience with. So be it - I've had bad experiences with them, too, but I'm not prepared to do that. These're citizens of the UK. People. As with all groups of people, some of them are toe-rags, some of them are diamonds. Most of them are probably somewhere in between - just trying to do a job to the best of their ability. Is that a generalisation? Maybe - but bad experiences or no, I've no reason to assume anything different. And I'll tell you this: there is no way on this Earth I would *ever* do that job. No matter how well-paid it might be, or how much power it might offer me, it wouldn't be worth it. Spend my career being attacked and vilified - spat at and assaulted, even - by the people I joined to try to help? No thanks.

    @ "He is lucky"

    << I'm surprised he wasnt shot in the head 7 times and then accused of being a terrorist, maybe the police over there have gone soft. >>

    Oh, sure - cos that happens all the time, doesn't it? This is *exactly* what I meant about proportion. And before you accuse me of making light of a tragic and inexcusable cock-up, I'm not: but of all the police officers in Britain, tell me how many have shot someone seven times in the head?

    @ "Wake up ! grow up! scary country"

    << ...when someone has whacked you on the head with a blunt instrument then stamped on your face with their boots having failed to mug you. >>

    And the police said "can't help you" after that happened to you (I presume that did happen to you, since as a general example of an average incident it seems pretty extreme), and *you just left it at that*? C'mon, pull the other one. How did it *really* turn out?

    @ Tim Donovan

    Speaker of Common Sense, thank god. You're absolutely right: the truth is when all's said and done we don't know any of the details of the case. All we've got is what the Reg chooses to tell us - and from there it's just a case of lighting the Usual Suspects' blue touch papers and watching the show. And I'm not a frequent commenter but I'm a regular reader, and honestly, it's depressing how tabloid this place is getting. We've got the same range of extremists parroting the same material, from "hang-em-and-flog-em" through to "we're-living-in-1984"... I bet it's quite a game for the administrators and the writers: "let's see how flared up we can get them with this one". Like a bunch of clockwork toys: wind them up and watch them go.

    I won't say there aren't any good points made in amongst all the flames and screeching. But it must be nice to live in some people's heads, where everything is so absolutely clear-cut that you can reach a firm judgement on a situation based purely on a short news article. It's just a shame that such simplicity in the real world only seems to cause problems, rather than solving them.

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