Online abuse will now be punished. Except when it’s committed by Tory councillors.

On 21 August, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced tough new guidelines for dealing with online abuse and hate crime. But it seems the new rules don’t apply if you’re a Tory. Because two Scottish Conservative councillors who were suspended for sending offensive tweets have been reinstated in the party.

Tackling online hate

The guidelines announced by the CPS only affect England and Wales. But crucially, the update adopts the position taken by the Scottish legal system since 2014. Its guidance states:

if it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online.

Explaining the change, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders stated:

Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating.

These ‘new’ guidelines were already in place in Scotland when the councillors were suspended over their tweets.


Alastair Majury and Robert Davies, both Stirling councillors, were suspended from the Conservative Party in May. Majury’s comments included comparing Scottish nationalists to Nazis, attacking benefit claimants, and saying the SNP was too busy talking about gay marriage.

Read on...

Davies, meanwhile, posted several tweets with black and white photographs of a group of black people next to a cargo plane. His comments included:

keep your loin cloths with you at all times. Spears go in the overhead locker.


But just months later, the pair’s suspension appears to be over. According to the Scottish Conservatives:

Having served a suspension, both councillors have been readmitted to the party after offering unreserved apologies for any offence caused. It has been made abundantly clear that behaviour like this will not be tolerated in future.

The decision was slated by SNP MSP James Dornan:

She [Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson] is keen to call out racism, sexism and other unacceptable behaviour, except when her own colleagues are the guilty ones. But this issue goes beyond mere hypocrisy, and exposes the ugly reality of Davidson’s Tories – a party which offers a home to extremist views, turns a blind eye to prejudice and allows those who spout offensive nonsense to hold elected office.

And as Green MSP Mark Ruskell pointed out:

Imagine a racist and an internet troll now deciding on Stirling Council school bullying and equalities strategies.

No excuses

This case also raises serious issues over the new guidance for hate crime prosecution. No legal action was taken against the councillors. And essentially, their employer has decided that a three-month suspension is enough of a ‘punishment’ for racism and sexism online.

Lip service to online abuse is not enough. Online abuse is horrific, and is a problem we all need to tackle. New guidance is only effective if it’s implemented. And reinstating these councillors sends an appalling message to racists and internet trolls everywhere.

Get Involved!

– See more Canary articles on hate crime and racism.

Support The Canary if you appreciate the work we do.

Featured image via Flickr and Flickr

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed