Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A racially-aggravated offence

BBC News reports:

A woman has been arrested after an online video apparently showed a woman abusing ethnic minority passengers on a packed south London tram.

The clip, viewed more than 10,600 times since being uploaded to YouTube on Sunday, shows a woman sitting with a child, shouting at fellow passengers.

British Transport Police said a woman, 34, had been arrested on suspicion of a racially-aggravated offence.

The BBC article doesn't link to the YouTube video, but the Huffington Post article they link to does. By now it has been watched 1,854,507 times.

She seems like a very unpleasant woman, and quite probably drunk or on drugs. She shouts foul language and generally makes a nuisance of herself. There is a sense in which she can be said to violating the rights of her fellow passengers — their right to peace and quiet. If this were private transport, you might expect her to be banned, possibly for life, for harassing customers.

But does it matter that her tirade was "racially aggravated"? Does she deserve a harsher sentence than someone who shouts similar abuse at rival sports fans, fat people, rich people or smokers? If she had restricted her rant to Polish people, would it have been any better? Should the law really consider skin colour more important than hair colour, height, physical attractiveness, or intelligence?

I think not, and I find it very disturbing that the notion of racially-aggravated crimes exists.

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