Teenager arrested over 'burning poppy' Facebook post

Teenager arrested over 'burning poppy' Facebook post

Summary: A 19-year-old man from Aylesham has been pulled in by Kent Police on Remembrance Day over a Facebook posting apparently showing a picture of a burning poppy, with an accompanying offensive message.


British police have arrested a man who allegedly posted a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook, along with an offensive statement.

The 19-year-old man from Aylesham in Kent was arrested on Sunday evening. Sunday, the 11th of November, was Remembrance Day in the UK, in which the poppy is a symbol for soldiers who have died on the battlefield.

"Our officers were contacted around 4pm yesterday and alerted to the picture which was reportedly accompanied by an offensive comment," a Kent Police spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Monday morning, adding that the arrested teenager would be questioned on Monday morning.

The man was arrested "on suspicion of malicious telecommunications", the force said. This suggests that he is suspected of an offence under Section 127(1)(a) of the Communications Act 2003.

The same law has previously been used to prosecute 'Twitter joke trial' defendant Paul Chambers, who successfully appealed against his conviction, as well as several others in recent months. Perhaps the most relevant analogy would be that of Azhar Ahmed, who was sentenced to 240 hours' community service a month ago for saying on Facebook that "all soldiers should die and go to hell".

Others prosecuted under the same law this year alone include Matthew Woods (jailed for 12 weeks for making jokes on Facebook about the missing child April Jones), Joshua Cryer (given a two-year community order for making racist tweets about footballer Stan Collymore), and John Kerlen (sentenced to 80 hours' unpaid labour for referring to a local councillor as a 'c**t' in a tweet).

The number of complaints over social media posts has been steadily rising — there were 2,490 last year — and director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer has been working on new guidelines for police, to ensure that people's right to be offensive is "protected".

Quoted in The Guardian, Index on Censorship campaigner Padraig Reidy said the burning poppy case was "very worrying".

"Index hopes that when the [Crown Prosecution Service] issues its guidelines on free speech later this month, due regard will be given to free speech online," Reidy said.

The arrest has prompted a '#poppycock' hashtag on Twitter, in which people are venting their frustration over the matter. One entry comes from David Allen Green, the lawyer who represented Chambers in his trial:

Topics: Censorship, United Kingdom

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • While I don't agree with what was pictured

    far from it in fact, there's still a question of free-speech. Just because we don't like what's being said, is that enough to arrest someone? Where's the line, is it the majority that dictates when free-speech doesn't apply?
    What's the Voltaire (mis)quote "While I disagree with what you're saying, I'll fight to the death to defend your right to say it"
    Little Old Man
    • Evidently in the UK it is

      Whats next arrests for dirty looks? Make no mistake this isn't about free speech this is about control. The same thing is incrementally being done in the United States. Being an ignorant punk kid is not a crime.