Should you be jailed for racism?

The Herald reports:

A UK student who posted a series of racist comments on Twitter following footballer Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest has been jailed for 56 days.

Liam Stacey, 21, caused widespread revulsion by reacting to Muamba’s mid-game collapse by writing: ‘LOL [laughing out loud], **** Muamba. He’s dead!!! #haha.’ He responded to criticism of that message with vile racist tweets. …

Stacey initially claimed his account had been accessed by somebody else, but later pleaded guilty to racially aggravated harassment. He was sent to prison to “reflect the public outrage” at his comments.

Stacey also faces expulsion from Swansea University. The third-year biology student had hoped to become a forensic scientist. Describing his tweets, prosecutor Louise Barron told the court: “The offence is clearly racially aggravated.

“There was sustained and gratuitous . These were unprovoked comments and persistent abuse. The recipients were disgusted.”

Jailing the student at Swansea Magistrates’ Court, District Judge John Charles said: “Not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world, but the whole world were literally praying for Muamba’s life. Your comments aggravated this situation.

“I have no choice but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.”

Now let’s be very clear. His comments were vile and racist. Some of his actual tweets are here. He absolutely deserves to be vilified in turn, to be kicked out of his university etc. Gloating that someone may die as they have collapsed on live television is awful.

But should someone go to jail just for saying something which is racist and offensive? I am uneasy about that. I think they should be exposed and suffer consequences as most people will shun them for what they said. But I think a prison sentence for a 21 year old who did some racist tweets is not a good thing.

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