Doin it rong

A guy from Greater Manchester, Barry Thew, wore a horrible T shirt right after two police constables, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, were killed. The T shirt said “one less pig perfect justice.” Nasty.

He was sentenced to four months in jail today. He “admitted a public order offence.”

A police spokesman said Thew, of Worsley Street, Radcliffe, had been arrested after being seen wearing the T-shirt in Radcliffe town centre “just hours” after the constables died in a gun and grenade attack in Mottram on 18 September.

Mr Williams said: “While officers on the ground were just learning of and trying to come to terms with the devastating news that two colleagues had been killed, Thew thought nothing of going out in public with a shirt daubed with appalling handwritten comments on.”

That’s very very unkind and unfeeling and rude. Barry Thew shouldn’t be like that. But – being unkind isn’t a crime. All his friends should give him a good talking-to, but he shouldn’t be convicted of a crime or sent to jail.

It’s a T shirt. With a handwritten slogan on it.



  1. says

    The UK is getting increasingly worse in this regard. That is but one of three silly convictions this week: Another man was arrested for a facebook message which said all British soldiers should die and go to hell, another facebook message contained a joke about current missing toddler April Jones and its author was imprisoned.

    Are these people despicable, certainly. Should they be arrested for their disgusting comments, no.

  2. jonmoles says

    It is stories like this one that remind that no matter how frustrated I become with American politics and culture there is no magical land of secular Enlightenment waiting in Europe or anywhere else. While there may be many things to admire or be envious of overseas the foundation of America (our Consititution in particular), no matter how corrupted it may be, is well worth fighting for.

  3. Molly says

    “It’s a T shirt. With a handwritten slogan on it.”


    “I’m a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a woman skeptic, just a skeptic.”

  4. Stacy says

    “I’m a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a woman skeptic, just a skeptic.”

    And remember how Surly Amy tried to get Harriet Hall arrested for that?

    Yeah, me neither.

    If you really want to ignore a post about a serious issue in order to press your trolly little meme, if it’s that fucking important to you, you’ll have to try harder, “Molly”. You’re not among your dimwitted friends here.

  5. Maureen Brian says

    I’d like to think that we Brits are mostly sensible but, you see, we have this duff government at the moment.

    How duff? Well, they seem to think that if they are really, really, really mean to the weak and the foolish then Baby Jesus will come along and make the economy grow.

    Could they not just make the economy grow by normal means? Apparently not – something to do with Baby Jesus also being a vengeful god. Confused? So are we.

  6. barrypearson says

    The Public Order Act 1986 needs to be reviewed. It has some bits that are hard to attack, and some bits that are hard to defend.

    It is a sort of “bucket” Act where “riot” and violent disorder” and “incitement to racial hatred” and “intentional harassment alarm and distress” and lots of other things live. There are some pretty important things there.

    But the bit about “alarm and distress” tends to get mis-used for “giving offense” (or even for “doing something that people may choose to take offense to”). There are moves among law-makers and many others to remove those bits.

    On a personal note, I keep aware of this Act when I post to my blog. The religious hatred laws, enacted later, amended this Act, and I am careful to keep emphasizing the difference between race & religion, and between “Islam” and “Muslim” etc.

    “Burning the Koran” would probably be prosecuted here, and possibly as a racial rather than religious offence. I think over-zealous people are using it to suppress things they simple don’t want to see or hear.

    Maureen Brian #6
    “I’d like to think that we Brits are mostly sensible but, you see, we have this duff government at the moment.”

    It is the previous government that nearly managed to push through “insulting religions” as an offense! They lost by one vote. If any government tidies up this Act, I would expect it to be one relying on the Liberal Democrats, perhaps this one.

  7. Have a balloon says

    Alongside three imprisonments for “saying mean stuff”, this week also saw a famous comedian found guilty of harassment causing fear of violence.

    The jury heard Collins subjected the video games public relations worker, from Pirton near Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, to sustained emotional and domestic abuse during their seven-month relationship.
    The court was told that Collins made her sleep facing him, throw away DVDs because they featured actors she found attractive and made death threats against her.

    He got community service and a fine.

    So…you can get imprisoned for saying mean stuff about:

    1. Police officers
    2. Soldiers
    3. Missing children

    But you don’t get imprisoned for saying mean stuff about:

    1. Your girlfriend.


  8. dirigible. says

    Maureen – Labour introduced a lot of illiberal legislation that the Tories have failed to repeal, it’s not just the current government that are the problem.

    Have a balloon – You make a good point. See also Jimmy Savile.

    I don’t think we (the UK) get to lecture anyone on taking offence…

  9. jaggington says

    Have any of you actually read what was written on his T-shirt? He got off very lightly indeed. I’d say a couple of years behind bars with no parole would be a minimum sentence for such an awful crime against grammar.

    More seriously, I have witnessed similar incidents (in the UK) were people have been warned by the police that they face arrest unless they either remove or cover up the offending slogan. I think it’s covered by “behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace” – ie start a fight. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t given a similar warning. Even if that’s not the case, I have no sympathy with him. He’s an adult, he made a conscious decision to cause profound offence in a community where he would have known he would come across colleagues, friends and possibly relatives of the murdered police officers.

  10. ismenia says

    Have a balloon #8, are you seriously suggesting that making death threats should not be a crime? Putting a person in fear of violence is very difference from just causing offence.

    The legal definition of assault only requires that the victim was made to apprehend violence.

    dirigible #9 – what about Jimmy Saville? He was never prosecuted for anything and allegations are only coming out after his death. The matter is still undergoing an enquiry but it’s interesting that others in the industry are now saying that there were always rumours.

  11. ismenia says

    Have a balloon, dirigible, sorry misread first post can see that’s not the point you’re making. I think I’ve been staring at screens too long.

  12. AsqJames says

    Maureen Brian:

    I’d like to think that we Brits are mostly sensible but, you see, we have this duff government at the moment.

    I too would like to think that, but am given repeated examples that we are not. Or at least that (in common with the vast majority of humanity) we do not examine our own biases nearly as much as we should.

    I find it instructive to compare the reaction this man’s actions and arrest prompted from friends and the media commentariat with the same people’s reaction to the events following the Innocence of Muslims youtube video. Many who, even while decrying the tastelessness of the video, defended the filmmaker’s right to make it without legal consequence or violent response are yet able to support Barry Thew’s arrest, conviction and imprisonment. Many have opined that he would have deserved any physical violence that came his way while wearing the shirt. Some have described how hard they would have found it to refrain from delivering summary justice themselves had they been present, or would have sympathised with any local who had “taken matters into their own hands”.

    There are some who would support legal sanctions, or excuse violence, against offending speech whatever the source or target, and some who would defend free speech and advocate more speech in answer. And while I would disagree with the former group, at least they have a consistent position (even if it’s nigh impossible to get them to define the line between OK speech and not-OK speech).

    Unfortunately, as I think has been demonstrated over the last 24 hours and I predict will continue to be over the next few days, the hypocrites are in the majority in this country.

  13. Riptide says

    Jaggington, does taking offence at someone else’s speech give you the right to deprive them of their freedom for a moment, let alone a third of a year of their lives? What if someone gets offended by a scarlet ‘A’ t-shirt and tries to get the wearer arrested? Will you “have no sympathy” because the wearer “was an adult” and “knew xe would offend” religious people?

  14. says

    Britain has been a truly woeful place for illiberal legislation annd overuse of police powers since around 10 years ago, if not before. I welcomed the coalition because of the illiberalism and constant onslaught against civil liberties that dirigible mentions, but the coalition are disappointing in this regard too. I just think that people either don’t care or activelly support this illiberalism.

    The belief is always that it will happen to different people and the “respectable”, conformist, mainstream majority will never be touched. I myself grew up in a decent working-class home and we were taught to respect a man in uniform and if we kept our noses clean, no harm would come to us. I honestly can’t be sure of that now. I’ve never assaulted or harrassed anyone and I hope I’ve led a good life, but I don’t consider the authorities to be on my side against criminals at this point.

    They are bemoaning cuts to the police, but we’ve got the police doing needless tasks such as arresting this man, infiltrating movements just because the establishment dislike them, and all kinds of other things that shouldn’t be done. That kind of thing could be got rid of and society would be better off as a result. At the same time, though, they won’t cut the bad they do, they’ll cut the functions that genuinely protect the public. I could burst into tears.

    Has anyone read this?

  15. jaggington says


    These are two difference scenarios:

    Scenario 1
    Wearing a T-shirt with a slogan that someone, somewhere might find offensive, and perhaps entering into a dialogue with someone if they tell you they find it offensive.

    Scenario 2
    Writing a slogan on a T-shirt and going out into a community with the deliberate intention of causing offence and distress. Especially when part of the slogan is threatening. And then [speculation on my part in this case, but I’ve seen it happen on other occasions] refusing to cover-up the slogan/remove the T-shirt when warned to do so by the police and only then being arrested.

    As for trying to get someone arrested for wearing an offensive T-shirt, it would really depend on the police and their knowledge and interpretation of the law in that particular circumstance, Mr O’Straw.

  16. says

    Sigh. Even the deliberate intention of causing offence and distress should not be a crime. Stupid “Molly” @ 3 doesn’t get that either, although from the opposite direction. I never for a second thought or said that Harriet Hall’s T shirt should be treated as a crime.

  17. jaggington says

    Sigh. Even the deliberate intention of causing offence and distress should not be a crime. Stupid “Molly” @ 3 doesn’t get that either, although from the opposite direction. I never for a second thought or said that Harriet Hall’s T shirt should be treated as a crime.

    The line has to be drawn somewhere – deliberately causing offence, distress, fear for one’s own or another’s safety …

    Had TAM had an appropriate anti-harrassment policy in place then Harriet Hall’s T-shirt slogan (or her insistence on continuing to wear the T-shirt when asked not to by Amy) might well have been in contravention of such a policy; this might eventually have lead to Harriet Hall being expelled from TAM – for example, had she refused, when asked to do so and when warned of the consequences, to change into a less offensive T-shirt.

  18. says

    Fuck everyone trying to make this about TAM. Two people are dead. Someone is in prison for making a political statement.

    I hope a competent journalist finds out *why* this person has such an anti-police opinion. It could be a response to having police brutality or corruption within a community or something else worth talking about.

  19. says

    @ 18 – which is still not the same thing as arrest, prosecution, conviction, and jail time. Not even close.

    It also wouldn’t have happened. Adults don’t behave like that. I think it was pretty sub-adult for Hall to wear that T shirt at all, and more so to wear it for three days, but I really don’t think she’s sub-adult enough to insist on wearing it even if the people at JREF asked her to stop.

  20. barrypearson says

    #17: Ophelia Benson
    Even the deliberate intention of causing offence and distress should not be a crime.

    Such actions cover a spectrum. They may be generalized statements that people who are not necessarily known to the “actor” take offense at. (Saying “god is a delusion” comes into that category!) Those shouldn’t be a crime.

    But the actions may be targeted at easily identified people. This is heading towards harassment, cyber-stalking, or bullying. Mentally vulnerable people may commit suicide. (“Girl commits suicide after bullying on Facebook” was a recent case). There may be a risk of inciting physical harm, for example if someone’s home address is identified, and more so if violence is proposed. Should that ever be a crime?

    #18: jaggington
    The line has to be drawn somewhere – deliberately causing offence, distress, fear for one’s own or another’s safety …

    See above: “offense and distress” – not a crime. But “rational fear of violence” – there is a case to be made.

    I claim that if someone is offended or upset, except where it is a personal attack of some kind, it is either because they have chosen to be upset or they have been indoctrinated to be upset. Those can be changed – the onus is on the “receiver” not the “sender” to change.

    But I think there can be a good case for it to be a crime if there is an objective risk of physical harm, or a rational expectation of physical harm, either self-inflicted or otherwise. We do read about bad consequences.

    In the UK the Public Order Act causes some actions which would be OK in some circumstances to become crimes when there is a risk of public disorder. I think it tends to be over-used, but a statement which may inflame a mob needs to be taken seriously.

  21. says

    I overstated it – which is ironic because I’ve just been telling Al Stefanelli that he overstated in the same way by saying that if you don’t like what someone says then just don’t look at it, it’s very simple.

  22. fentex says

    Not many people seem to have noticed the message on his shirt had nothing to do with the two constables shot the day he wore it.

    He was convicted for expressing his anger with UK police, anger that he has because his son died in their custody – another thing people don’t note and the media fails to report on thoroughly.

    His message was referring to an incident other than the one everybody thinks he was commenting on and condemns him for because heaven forbid they should pay attention.

    The rabble and mob justice now enacted in UK law that proves there is no freedom of expression in the UK and slams doors on dissent.

  23. jaggington says


    His original defence claimed that he was referring to the death of a police officer 4 years earlier in 2008. He subsequently admitted that he was referring to the shooting of the police women on the day he was arrested.

    He was obviously expressing his anger at the police. He still made the decision to write on the front of his T-shirt “One Less Pig Perfect Justice” and on the back “Kill a Cop Ha, Haaa?”. So eager was he to get his message out that at the time he wrote the slogan he only knew of the death of one of the officers; the other was dying in hospital.

    He was also warned to remove/cover the T-shirt and he refused, apparently saying “I’m not bothered”.

    Peter Tatchell, whose work I generally admire, has commented:

    “Barry Thew’s t-shirt was offensive but in a free society the public should have the right to criticise – and even insult – the police. His four month jail sentence is disproportionate. No one should be jailed for a mere insult.”
    “Mr Thew sounds an unpleasant character, with a long criminal history. It was insensitive and distressing for him to wear his anti-police t-shirt on that day. I empathise with the loved ones of the officers who were killed. However, four months in prison is excessive for a few poisonous words.
    “The price of free speech is that we sometimes have to put up with views we find offensive.”

    I absolutely agree with Peter Tatchell in principle. However, I feel that Barry Thew crossed the line from offensive insult to “behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace”.

  24. barrypearson says

    #24: fentex
    The rabble and mob justice now enacted in UK law that proves there is no freedom of expression in the UK and slams doors on dissent.

    That statement obviously isn’t true, which means that it doesn’t help identify what is OK and what is wrong in the UK. I say things on my blog that I would not get away with in many countries in the world. And I promote all of those blogs-posts via Twitter.

    The problem is that it isn’t clear what may lead to prosecution and what is safe. That has the chilling effect that is often quoted as the downside of our ambiguous and inconsistently applied laws.

    Being analytical, I’m trying to deduce the “hidden rules”. There are at least 2 dimensions:

    1. Is the statement or action physically public? (For example in the street). Might it lead to public disorder?

    2. Is the statement targeted? (For example, referring to people who can easily be identified). Might it be interpreted as harassment?

    I think the risk of public disorder is typically (not always) exaggerated. Perhaps it amounts to the police trying to make their job easier at the expense of democratic rights. I don’t believe there was likely to be public disorder in this case. In fact, I struggle to remember any case where a non-targeted physically-public statement caused significant public disorder.

    I think that is where we should be most concerned about free expression in the UK.

  25. stevenbelgium says

    The one legitimate limit to freedom of speech that I accept is inciting violence and I’d say that this could easily be seen as inciting violence.

  26. fentex says

    His original defence claimed that he was referring to the death of a police officer 4 years earlier in 2008. He subsequently admitted that he was referring to the shooting of the police women on the day he was arrested

    I was not aware of that revision. I don’t think it changes my opinion much about the UK’s ongoing legislating away of freedom of expression, but it does dull my visceral reaction in his support.

  27. says

    A police officer here once stopped someone wearing a tee saying Jesus Was A Cunt = What is interesting about this is how it manages to offend not one but two sections of society though I doubt that was the intention since as we all know cunt over here is routinely explained as being non misogynistic = But no one should ever be arrested or charged for a slogan in and of itself = Otherwise we have to get out our pencils and start drawing lines in the sand and then decide which line is the right one and that is both a thankless and pointless exercise = Reasonable human beings know what is and is not acceptable when it comes to self expression whether in written or spoken form = Unreasonable ones do not but better to educate them than have their words banned for that is far more dangerous than any slogan you will ever see = Which is why I tend to be suspicious of those who seek to do so no matter how altruistic the intention for that is but one step away from thought control = Seriously

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