A Twitter user who was convicted of posting a “grossly offensive tweet” has been sentenced to 150 hours of community service. Joseph Kelly, a 36-year-old man from Scotland, posted a tweet last year about Captain Sir Thomas Moore, a British war veteran who became a national hero for raising money for healthcare workers in 2020, according to the New York Post.
A day after Moore died, Kelly wrote that the “only good British soldier is a dead one” in a tweet. Kelly was drunk and deleted the tweet within 20 minutes, his attorney Tony Callahan told The National. “His level of criminality was a drunken post, at a time when he was struggling emotionally, which he regretted and almost instantly removed,” Callahan reportedly said, noting that Kelly had a miniscule number of followers.
“He accepts he was wrong,” Callahan added. “He did not anticipate what would happen. He took steps almost immediately to delete the tweet but the genie was out of the bottle by then.”
Despite this, British prosecutors sought jail time over the tweet. Under a controversial UK law that punishes online posts. Posts deemed “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” can lead to jail time, and in the case of Kelly, prosecutors were seeking six months behind bars.
Sheriff Adrian Cottam, who was responsible for Kelly’s sentencing, reportedly said in court that his punishment was important for “deterrence.” “It’s important for other people to realize how quickly things can get out of control,” Cottam reportedly said. “You are a good example of that, not having many followers.”
In a similar instance, a 12-year-old boy was arrested for writing a “grossly offensive” tweet about a professional soccer player. “We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy,” wrote UK law enforcement officials in a tweet. “The 12-year-old from #Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won’t be tolerated.”
Wilfried Zaha — an African born UK soccer player who makes close to seven million dollars per year — called for action against the boy after being targeted by the offensive tweet. “Woke up to this today,” Zaha posted on Twitter alongside screenshots. The tweet later went viral, as Zaha has close to a million followers, and the 12-year-old was arrested.