THE RELEASE of a video by ISIS militants purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley sparked widespread revulsion today. It also brought about a rather sinister email exchange between writer, lawyer and legal commentator David Allen Green and the Metropolitan police after Scotland Yard warned people that “watching, downloading or disseminating” the video could be treated as a criminal offence. It went like this, as related on Twitter:
So: get call from senior anti-terrorist press officer.
She emphasises viewing video “may” be offence.
But under which law, I ask.
Why are you so annoyed she asks, do you want people to see the video?
Which actual offence, I ask (again).
The Terrorism Act, she says.
Which one, I ask?
1 and 2.
But sections 1 and 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 don’t cover viewing, I point out.
“It’s a matter of interpretation” she says.
What parts of sections 1 and 2 can be interpreted to cover “viewing” I ask.
Well, its our interpretation, she replies.
But Met should not be putting out false alarmist statements about criminal law, I say.
“Send us an email and I will look at it.”
So I have.
Now I haven’t watched this video, nor do I have any wish to – the picture accompanying this article is powerful enough when it comes to conveying the absolute horror of the situation – and those morons bouncing it around the internet don’t seem to understand that they’re doing ISIS’s work for them. But that’s no excuse for the police making up the law as they go along.
A democratically elected Parliament tells me what is legally acceptable or unacceptable when it comes to my private viewing. I’m not going to be told by the police what I can and can’t watch, however horrific the images on the computer screen.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan