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'The Grenfell effigy burners are fools, but not criminals'

Those who burnt a cardboard model of Grenfell Tower are clearly very sick individuals and ought to be shamed, but the matter should not be considered a criminal offence.

First, I offer a brief overview of the case:

What happened?

A group of people burnt (in a private back garden) an effigy of Grenfell Tower with (brown) paper figures in the windows.

This was filmed and the video was sent to a Whatsapp group, before being shared more widely online.

Six people linked to this event have been arrested.

According to The Telegraph, detectives raided the property where the event took place, leaving (after two hours) with three bags of evidence.

A police matter?

It is right that they have been publically shamed; I hope they realise how foolishly they have behaved. But is it right that committing what was essentially a brash act of expression in the privacy of their home has led to them being arrested and having their house raided and searched? I think not. In fact, this makes me quite worried.

The arresting of people not for committing crimes but for saying things—however stupid, even like 'this is what you get for not paying your rent!'—in their own homes is, indeed, a very dangerous precedent to set and has the ring of a police state to it.

Some claim that a criminal offence was committed when the video of the burning was shared online, 'where others will have seen it and possibly felt hated by it'. Spiked editor Brendan O'Neil has asked, in response to this, whether the 'army of virtue-signallers from the political and media worlds who have been feverishly sharing the video and declaring their disgust with it [will] also be questioned by the police for aiding and abetting this alleged hate crime?'

Many have also argued that, in a time of limited police resources, more important cases should be being dealt with rather than this one. Retired Met detective chief inspector, Colin Sutton, has, for example, commented that 'trying to police bad taste—even it is the most extreme bad taste—is not necessarily an effective use of  limited resources, when the Met has got more important things to deal with.'

While this is undoubtedly true, the point seems to suggest that if resources were more abundant, arrests for such actions and words would be acceptable.

This is not the case—unless, of course, you're happy with the prospect of living in an Orwellian-type state where you are punished for things you say and do (which are not criminal), even in your own home.

Featured image: Attphotography / Shutterstock.com.