Man, 36, found guilty of posting ‘grossly offensive’ tweet about Captain Sir Tom Moore saying ‘burn auld fella buuuuurn’ plans to appeal conviction at European Court of Human Rights
- Joseph Kelly, 36, posted ‘grossly offensive’ tweet about Captain Tom’s death
- He wrote ‘the only good Brit soldier is a deed one, burn auld fella, buuuuurn’
- Kelly bidding to have his conviction overturned on ‘freedom of speech’ grounds
A man who was convicted of posting a ‘grossly offensive’ tweet about the death of NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore plans to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Joseph Kelly, 36, admitted posting ‘the only good Brit soldier is a deed one, burn auld fella, buuuuurn’ on his Twitter account but denied breaching communication laws.
But he was found guilty by Sheriff Adrian Cottam after a trial at Lanark Sheriff Court in January.
He is now bidding to have his conviction overturned on the grounds that the tweet should have been categorised as freedom of speech rather than an offence.
Kelly, of Castlemilk, Glasgow, was arrested after the message appeared on social media following the former soldier’s death.
After his conviction, Kelly was placed under supervision for 18 months and ordered to perform 150 hours of unpaid work as a direct alternative to jail.
A bid to overturn his conviction was rejected by the Sheriff Appeal Court in Edinburgh – but Kelly now plans to submit an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.
Joseph Kelly (pictured), 36, from Glasgow, was arrested after the message appeared on social media
The post on Twitter (pictured) said ‘the only good Brit soldier is a deed one, burn auld fella buuuuurn’. This tweet was later deleted
He is being supported by campaign group the Free Speech Union who have set up a crowdfunding page to help pay for his legal expenses. It has so far raised more than £1,000.
Kelly’s legal team will argue that a statement such as that made by him by means of a public telecommunications system should not need to have artistic or political meaning for it be protected by the right to free speech laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a statement, the Free Speech Union said: ‘Joe Kelly’s case is alarming. He didn’t harm anyone or engage in hate speech.
‘Who hasn’t said something offensive, distasteful, thoughtless or controversial at the pub? Should Joe be landed with a criminal record and punished just because his expression was online and related to someone society has decided to venerate?
‘The strength of free speech, the foundation of liberal democratic societies, is measured exactly by how tolerant we are of speech that we find reprehensible and offensive.
‘This case goes beyond individual justice for Joe Kelly. It is about ensuring this ‘deterrence’ (i.e. ‘chilling effect’) on free expression does not materialise.
‘And it is about ensuring Scotland is not left behind as the only country within the UK which maintains a legal concept (‘grossly offensive’) in the regulation of messages sent on public communication systems which is, ironically, in absolute antithesis to the Enlightenment values that Scotland brought to the world.’
Kelly admitted sending the tweet, but denied that it broke communication laws. Sheriff Adrian Cottam previously found him guilty, describing it as a ‘necessary interference’ in freedom of expression
Sir Tom, who helped raise more than £32million for the NHS during the first national lockdown, died from coronavirus and pneumonia in February 2021 aged 100
Kelly’s trial heard he had been drinking when he posted the tweet, which was removed after 20 minutes, but expressed remorse after facing a public backlash.
Sentencing him, Sheriff Cottam said: ‘My view was that this was a grossly offensive tweet and there must be both punishment and deterrence.
‘The deterrence is to show people that despite the steps you took to try and resolve the matter, as soon as you press that blue button, that’s it, and it is important for other people to realise how quickly things can get out of control.’
Sir Tom, who helped raise more than £32million for the NHS during the first national lockdown, died from coronavirus and pneumonia in February 2021 aged 100.
He won the nation’s hearts by walking 100 laps of his garden in Bedfordshire during the first lockdown, raising money for NHS Charities Together.
The Queen knighted him during a special ceremony in the grounds of Windsor Castle in 2020.
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