Backbytes: Whatever you’re doing, it’s probably against the law

By Computing Staff
26 Aug 2014 View Comments

Not long ago, we carried a tale about two blokes who got whacked by the long arm of the law on account of some apparently illegal filth someone had sent them anonymously, which they hadn’t subjected to a Gutmann 35-pass overwrite deletion when they were picked up and had their smartphones sequestered on an unrelated matter.

Emboldened by those unjust convictions, the Metropolitan Police more recently suggested that simply watching the appalling video of the murder of journalist James Foley by Islamist extremists in Syria constituted a criminal act under anti-terror laws.

“We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation,” tweeted the old bill.

On questioning, however, the Metropolitan Police couldn’t actually identify the laws that might have been broken and were forced to back down. So, if you’d clicked on that link out of morbid curiousity, you shouldn’t get woken up at 6am by the rozzers kicking your front door in – and no doubt trailed by a BBC camera crew.

“If a police force tells people something is against the law then it should be able to instantly say on demand what the law is. The law should not be made up by press officers as they go along,” was the damning judgment of lawyer David Allen Green, writing in the Financial Times.

Indeed, when the police themselves have no idea what the law is, perhaps that means there’s too much of it – or maybe we could do with a return to calm common sense on matters of law and order, rather than the shrill “sending of messages” every five minutes?

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