A 22-year old Liverpudlian has been arrested after setting up a Facebook page praising Dale Cregan – the man charged with murdering four people, including two police officers, in a series of gun and grenade attacks across Manchester.
The unidentified man used the page to describe Cregan as a ‘legend’ and called for him to be awarded an OBE for his violent and actions and erratic behaviour.
Facebook users swiftly reported the site prompting a joint operation by Manchester and Merseyside police to identify the culprit, who was arrested on Wednesday night under the Communications Act.
The social media giant already has a policy of removing inflammatory content such as pages or messages posted by so-called ‘trolls’ for breaching its statement of rights and responsibilities but the latest case is likely to re-open a debate on how regulations might be tightened.
A series of recent offensive comments on such sites have led to a testing of the waters on existing legislation but Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, believes that comments, no matter how offensive, are unlikely to lead to criminal charges unless they include threats or become campaigns of harassment.
The Crown prosecution Service recently decided not to take action against a Welsh footballer who was found to have made a prejudiced tweet against Olympic diver Tom Daley.
Speaking to The Telegraph Starmer said: “In some cases it is clear that a criminal prosecution is the appropriate response to conduct which is complained about, for example where there is a sustained campaign of harassment of an individual, where court orders are flouted or where grossly offensive or threatening remarks are made and maintained.
“If the fundamental right to free speech is to be respected, the threshold for criminal prosecution has to be a high one and a prosecution has to be required in the public interest."