Free speech under pressure or action against inflammatory comments?

Ought we to be a mite concerned about protecting free speech from officious prosecutions, even when the comments are “obnoxious”, in the opinion of a district judge?  I hold no brief for Ruth Patterson’s “alleged” comments on Facebook which it’s customary not to repeat once someone is charged and for which she has apologised. This Derry case is a sign of changed times. Amazing to learn that a “youth” has been fined in Derry for making “ derogatory remarks” in Fahan St about the murdered policeman Ronan Kerr and Margaret Thatcher. He was unlucky enough to be overheard by a policeman.  I wonder how?  The Waterloo St pubs are nearby but that may not be relevant. What’s amazing is that a cop was actually present in Fahan St., a street sweeping down  to the heart of the Bogside and the Bloody Sunday memorial.  And fined for speaking ill of the late Iron Lady in that location?  Changed times indeed. Many people will of course be pleased to see  evidence that the PSNI are so busy upholding law and order.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London