10 February 2009

Laxton's Intention?

Laxton of the FO "was arrested for inciting religious hatred - which can carry a seven-year prison term - and bailed to reappear at a central London police station at the end of March", according to yesterday's (9th Feb) Times newspaper.

The report describes how Mr Laxton, "allegedly shouted "f***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews" while watching television reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza last month.

He is also alleged to have said that Israeli soldiers should be "wiped off the face of the Earth" during the rant at the London Business School gym near Regents Park on January 27. The tirade reportedly continued even after other gym users asked him to stop.

But what was Laxton's intention during this tirade?

I ask because, according to the story, he was arrested for 'inciting religious hatred'. This offence is found in the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, particularly section 29B(1) which provides, "[a] person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred."

So, did he intend to stir up religious hatred?

I don't know but from this report I wouldn't think that it would be reasonable to conclude that he was intending to stir up religious hatred.

This begs the question as to why he was arrested (in order to keep the peace); anyway, I doubt he will be charged when he appears at the 'central London police station'.

Anyone want to take a wager?

Update - 17th Sept 2009. You should have taken the wager. "Foreign Office official 'said Israelis should be wiped off the face of the earth'. It looks as though the chap is looking at up to six months in prison or the maximum fine or being found not guilty.

18th Sept ... Further thoughts - was Laxton's intention oblique?

Imagine that someone is irritating you; they are in a house, looking out of the window and laughing and pointing at you. You decide to throw a stone at them to 'smash their face in'; after throwing the stone, the person ducks, he isn't hit. But you've just broken the window. You may say (and sincerely believe) that it was never your intention to break the window but this is usually taken as an example of oblique intention.

Wikipedia has ..."Oblique intent: a person has oblique intent when they foresee the certainty of a consequence of their act, even if it is not their main objective."

Would Laxton of the FO have been able to foresee that his behaviour would have stirred up racial hatred?


23rd Sept ... Of the six or so articles found by plugging 'Laxton' into google news (today) the story from the Guardian titled, "Foreign office official denies gym outburst was antisemitic from 17th Sept appears to be the most useful.

Firstly, the expression "F***ing Israelis" is admitted but "F***ing Jews" is denied. He expresses contrition, mitigating circumstances have been introduced (divorced on the same morning) and he was supported by character witnesses. Another point provided by the story came from Laxton's barrister who said,

"his client would not be guilty of inciting religious hatred or causing alarm, harassment or distress because he had no reason to believe anyone could hear him.

Summing up he said: "If you say something and you have got no reason to believe someone is going to hear you, no matter how offensive it is, you are not guilty of an offence.

"The words were not directed at any person, the police spoke to 12 other people who were in the gym that evening and none of them heard it.

This speech is attempting to diffuse the oblique intention point raised above: if Laxton thought that no one could hear him, he couldn't foresee that he would be inciting racial hatred. Of course, the court may find that if you start ranting in a public place, it is foreseeable that someone would hear you.

Cards on the table: I'd give the chances of conviction at 55%. Under the same circumstances, I'd give someone else a greater chance of being convicted.

No comments:

Post a Comment