Claire Khaw arrested, allegedly
Claire Khaw is the blogger best known for getting onto various radio talk-shows and online forums and spouting extremely offensive views about disabled people, among them that severely disabled children should be rejected (in one Facebook posting she used the phrase “drop it on its head”) because they are a burden on society (you can read of how the disability community came to know about this character here). She has been a member of the British National Party, though she recently tried to join the Tory party, but was expelled from the party after they discovered the nonsense she spouted (on which the Guardian reported here and here). This past week, she (or her friends) reported that she had been arrested, and her computer impounded, supposedly because she had accused Jessica Thom (AKA Touretteshero), pictured, of faking her condition.
The post has been removed by Google on request from a concerned individual, and they provide a link to the cease and desist notice on Chilling Effects, which has yet to “process” the notice, so we do not know why exactly the post was supposedly removed. So we only have her word and that of whoever is running Khaw’s Facebook page, “Are Slut Single Mothers a burden on the state?”, to go on. It is also noted that the police have seized her computer. It all seems a bit odd just for an unpleasant blog posting which just suggests that someone who has been in the media to promote a book about her experience of a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome is in fact faking it.
I don’t think Jessica Thom is fake and I do not have much time for Claire Khaw. I do, however, really hope that the police have not arrested her just for that posting. I very much doubt it, because the public and media outcry over people being prosecuted for making mildly offensive comments like “calling a police horse gay” has resulted in new guidelines that state that this sort of speech should no longer result in arrest. There are libel laws which amply cover suggestions such as those made against Jessica Thom, although they are notoriously biased towards the interests of wealthy plaintiffs (there is no legal aid for libel, either for the plaintiff or the defence, although some firms offer no-win, no-fee policies). Jessica herself was admitted to hospital last week (although not kept in) during what her friend calls a “super-fit”, so perhaps she is concentrating on her own health rather than on lawsuits against bigoted nobodies. Khaw’s arrest allows her, and whatever supporters she has, to crow about how her “freedom of speech” is being interfered with, how our society is “over-feminised” (a term she used in a comment in the past here) such that we can’t be nasty to people anymore, and so on.
And to be honest, I would agree with them. We should not be making crimes of simple nasty words; the law should become involved only when it crosses the line into harassment, such as when it is threatening, invasive or stops people going about their normal business, or when it incites people to harm others. (I would include other speech among normal business, so a spammer or harasser who fills a forum with junk so as to make it useless, or clogs up someone’s email box or whatever, should face sanction, particularly if they do not desist when told to or circumvent mechanisms meant to stop them.) Writing a blog post expressing an opinion, regardless of how ill-intended or baseless it may be, should not be a crime even if it is libellous. If such a thing can result in arrest, the seizure of a computer and possible prosecution, then the state has the ability to shut people up who might “distress” a more “important” person, like a politician or banker. It should not be allowed to happen.
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