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

Support us and go ad-free

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 know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us

Comments are closed