Friday, 17 January 2014

Criminal Intent

I was puzzled by the judgment handed down by Sheriff Stuart Reid in the following case because although he described the accused's comments as "an offensive and threatening communication", the huge decided that there was not the necessary criminal intent for a conviction.

Now of course the clown (Christopher Hay) who posted these abusive remarks played down their impact when confronted with the stupidity of his own behaviour - which he said in court was a moment of madness. 

But a person charged and convicted of breach of the peace, for example, does not have to be found guilty of setting out (with prior criminal intent) to disturb the peace.

As far as I understand all the prosecution has to show is that a person did behave in a disruptive and threatening manner - because it's not their reasoned intent that's the central issue in the case, but their behaviour and the potential effect of that behaviour on other people.

So I am struggling to understand the judge's reasoning although I doubt he would be impressed if I banged on his door at 2am one morning - demanding a fuller and more in-depth explanation. 

Christopher Hay cleared of Neil Lennon Twitter 'threat'

Hay's abusive comments were directed at Celtic manager Neil Lennon

A Rangers fan who Tweeted abuse about Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been cleared of committing an offence.

Christopher Hay, 22, was the first person to be charged under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act in 2012.

He said he wished "someone would kill that ugly ginger" and "I should've planned my parcel bombs better".

Sheriff Stuart Reid cleared Hay after finding there was not the necessary criminal intent to find him guilty.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how Hay's comments were posted the day the 2012 Act came into force and during a high-profile parcel bomb trial at the High Court in Glasgow.Police search

Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, from North Ayrshire, sent devices they believed were capable of exploding and causing injury.

The men were found guilty in March 2012 of conspiracy to assault Mr Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and the late Paul McBride QC and were jailed for five years.

The court heard that during a police operation, Hay's post was spotted using keywords on a search facility of Twitter.
Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie were jailed for a parcel bomb threat to Mr Lennon and two others

A designated officer who had to search for offensive messages during the trial of Muirhead and McKenzie, spotted the message and traced it to Hay.

When interviewed by police, Hay admitted posting the comment on his social networking site.

Although he posted the message he claimed it was never intended to be seen by anyone except his 23 friends who "follow" and view his posts on Twitter and that he claimed were "close friends".'Throwaway comment'

The court heard that Lennon's name was not mentioned in the comment and it was not directed towards him by copying it on to his official Twitter site but was written about him.

Hay, from Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, claimed: "I had no intention to cause fear or alarm to anybody. "It was an absolute throwaway comment, I didn't intend it to go further."

Nobody reposted the message on their web pages or commented on it. Hay told the court: "It was a moment of madness".

When asked why he wrote it he said: "I have no reason in particular why I sent it. I can't even think why I would write such a thing."

Procurator fiscal depute Stephen Ferguson asked: "If Neil Lennon or someone close to Neil Lennon were to see that how do you think they would feel?"

Hay answered: "They wouldn't be very pleased about it. Taken aback by it, it's not very nice, not something you want to see."

While Sheriff Stuart Reid branded Hay's comment "an offensive and threatening communication" he said that after considering all of the evidence, that there was not the necessary criminal intent needed for him to be found guilty.