(ANTIMEDIA) West Yorkshire, U.K. – American police often meet the wrath of trolls when they brag online about arrests for cannabis. Sometimes they delete the comments, but they often leave internet users’ roasts of their practices intact. In the U.K., however, one police station has not only admitted to banning users from the page for criticizing a marijuana arrest — they’re threatening prosecution.
In a post made Thursday morning, the West Yorkshire Police-Wakefield Rural wrote:
“PCSO 687 Ian Campbell and PCSO 882 Ben Hughes attended Walton colliery nature park and seized a small quantity of Cannabis from a young man who was parked up alone.
“Walton Colliery nature park will be firmly on our patrol plan in the future to prevent this behaviour.”
In what appears to be an update to the post, Police Inspector Martin Moizer issued a stern warning to internet hecklers. “Unfortunately we have had to ban a number of people from using this page today,” he wrote. “I would like to remind everyone that this is a Police page and whatever your thoughts on one of my officers seizing drugs in the community, being insulting, abusive or offensive can and will result in a prosecution under the Malicious Communications Act 1988.”
Unfortunately we have had to ban a number of people from using this page today. I would like to remind everyone that…
The Malicious Communications Act predates the digital age but nonetheless has bused to target offensive behavior or statements online. In 2014, the U.K. government amended it to make it more stringent and applicable to internet activity, notifying the public of the changes:
“The government is changing the law to increase the maximum sentence for the offence of sending certain items with the intent to cause distress or anxiety. This will mean more serious offences can be dealt with in the Crown Court and there will not be a time limit for police and Crown Prosecution Service to bring a prosecution.
“Alongside this, the government is also changing the law to allow up to 3 years, as opposed to 6 months as previously, to bring prosecutions against people for using the internet, social media or mobile phones to send menacing messages.”
According to that notice, “The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill amends section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 to make the offence an either-way offence with a maximum penalty on conviction on in the Crown Court of 2 years imprisonment.”
The government made it clear that the offense “covers sending a letter, electronic communication or article of any description to another person, which is in nature, or which conveys a message which is, indecent or grossly offensive, or conveys a threat or false information, with the purpose of causing distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom it is intended that its contents should be communicated.”
Concerns about the broad definition of “grossly offensive” have surrounded the policy, and nowhere is this more apparent than the West Yorkshire police reaction to trolls. After articulating the failed ideology of the drug war, Moizer warned commenters they could be prosecuted:
“We will not overlook the significant harm that illegal drugs cause to our communities. We know from experience that this can progress from using what are perceived to be recreational drugs to more addictive and harmful substances and the resulting criminality used to fund their continued use.
“Please use this page with respect or you will be banned and maybe even prosecuted.”
Here are some of the comments on the cannabis bust and the police department’s reaction to criticism of it:
In addition to the 1988 law, the 2003 Communications Act has seen prosecutions for internet trolling skyrocket. Citing official statistics, the Telegraph noted that in 2014, “1,209 people were found guilty of offences under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 – equivalent to three every day – compared to 143 in 2004.”
The British government is well-known for its Big Brother intrusive surveillance tactics, and last year, Prime Minister Theresa May introduced a new plan to strictly monitor and regulate the internet that would impose “huge restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online,” the Independent reported.
As far as cannabis is concerned, the British government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) acknowledged in 2016 that cannabidiol (CBD) had medical benefits, but cannabis remains illegal in the country despite the recent news that the U.K. is the world’s largest producer of the plant.
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