Judges’ landmark ruling in case of mother who called trans woman ‘he’ on Twitter means freedom of speech DOES includes the ‘right to offend’

A landmark ruling has taken place this month with two judges ruling in favour of free speech – even if it encompasses offensive language. The two judges, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby, stated that, “freedom to speak only inoffensively is not worth having.” [1]The ruling comes at a time where being ‘woke’ and politically correct is upheld as a fundamental part of modern society. While being aware of social issues and misjustice is key to a democratic and fair society, the ruling does bring up the question of what actually constitutes free speech.

Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby’s ruling presided over the case of conservative mother, Katie Scottow, who had been brought to court after her offensive tweets regarding trans-woman, Stefanie Hayden. Scottow had originally been found guilty under the 2003 communications act for offensive and upsetting tweets aimed at Hayden that included the words, “pig in a wig,” and, “racist.” The previous ruling had been presided over by district judge Magaret Dodds, who at the time had handed Scottow a two-year conditional discharge and awarded £1000 compensation for the remarks. Now, 10 months later the charges have been overturned with Warby and Bean declaring that, “free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another”.[2] Citing the 2003 communications act that Scottow had been charged on, the two judges decided that the relevant parts were not, “intended by Parliament to criminalise forms of expression, the content of which is no worse than annoying or inconvenient in nature.”[3]

The landmark ruling has turned the idea of free speech on its head, opening up questions about whether free speech should be able to encompass offensive language. It seems a balance has to be struck between remaining a liberal and democratic society, while also protecting the social rights of citizens. When asked about her thoughts on the ruling Scottow declared that, “it was necessary to enshrine one of the most fundamental rights of every living being in a democratic society.”[4] Stefanie Hayden, however, sees the ruling as a blow to the LGBTQ community, especially at a time where social equality is so needed.

[1] https://newsopener.com/uk/woke-folk-beware-freedom-of-speech-includes-the-right-to-offend-say-judges-in-landmark-ruling/

[2] https://newsopener.com/uk/woke-folk-beware-freedom-of-speech-includes-the-right-to-offend-say-judges-in-landmark-ruling/

[3] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/12/17/exclusive-people-must-have-right-offend-without-facing-police/

[4] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/12/17/exclusive-people-must-have-right-offend-without-facing-police/

© Whitestone Chambers

The end of an era: Virgin’s final 747 departs from Heathrow

2020 has been a catastrophic year for airlines around the globe with major carriers being hit hard by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. This year has seen the Boeing’s 747 come to a close with many airlines retiring their fleets in the wake of the pandemic, as well as in a bid to fly greener aircraft. October 8th marked British Airway’s last Boeing 747 flight and today Virgin Atlantic’s last 747 flight took off yesterday at 1pm. After its final flight, Virgin’s 747 will be retired to the North of America where it will join Atlas Air just as two of its sisters already have.

Marking the end of an era, the Boeing 747 has been an iconic aircraft for many carriers but it has a special history with Virgin. The airline has flown the 747 for 36 years, making it the company’s main form of passenger travel for over a decade. Aptly nicknamed, “Pretty Woman,” the 747 was the first of Virgin’s fleet to make the trip from Heathrow to New York 36 years ago and continues to remain a symbol of the skies. Virgin’s final flight with the 747 will give passengers an up-close and personal experience with a tour of the cabin, photos beside its iconic red engines and stories from some of the first 747 pilots. Though its retirement from Virgin’s fleet comes as a shock to many the airline is ready to look to the future, where cleaner travel is the aim. Corneel Coster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin, commented on the airline’s future plans after the 747. “As the airline moves forward to a more sustainable fleet, Virgin Atlantic’s legion of 747s have now ceased operations in favour of cleaner, greener, twin engine aircraft, comprised of the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.  Each of these new planes is on average 30% more fuel efficient than the four-engine aircraft they replaced.”[1]

Coster’s announcement provides some celebration on the topic and the hope of a cleaner, greener future. Though this marks the end of an era with the 747, it also marks the beginning of a more fuel-efficient world where airlines start to take more responsibility for their contribution to global warming. One iconic chapter may be closing but it is just the start of Virgin’s greener future.

[1] https://corporate.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/media/press-releases/we-bid-farewell-to-our-iconic-boeing-747s.html

© Whitestone Chambers