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CLASH OF COMMENTS: Should those responsible for the Grenfell effigy bonfire be prosecuted?

Should those responsible for burning an effigy of Grenfell Tower be prosecuted? James Abbott and Matthew King give their takes.

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Image: Natalie Oxford

YES - James Abbott

It is ironic that these individu-als, so close to the season of remembrance, should make a mockery of the memory of individ-uals whose lives were cut so short by such a tragedy. Their actions, arguably, disrespected our custom to recollect on the horror of con-flict and honouring the dead. Such as we do in war, we should regard-ing race.Should these individuals be persecuted for exercising their right to free speech? Of course not, but the incitement of racial hatred is an abhorrent crime. Through-out the video insults are clearly made against the fallen occupants of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Ra-cial slurs were made in reference to ethnic minorities, and Muslim residents who wore religious gar-ments. This is a clear sign of reli-gious and racial intolerance from a nationalist mob, reflected by the prominence in which they hoist their St Georges flag in the back-ground of the video. Ironic too, as these actions hold little to the ac-tual values of this country.A hate crime is defined, under the police and Crown Prosecution Service, as an incident in which individuals use violence or preju-dice against another individual, based on: disability, race, religion, transgender identity and sexual orientation. From the video we can see that there were indeed prejudi-cial intentions. Was the act a crime and can they be held accountable? Yes, they can. Under the Public Order Act of 986, causing harassment, alarm or distress to victims of these types above is classified as a hate crime and can risk prosecution.While it can be argued that their intentions were not to cause harassment against any commu-nity but to use this bonfire as a private source of amusement, they surrendered this excuse when they spread the video into the public domain. The repercussions have led to the personal offences of many on racial grounds non- related to the incident, and have caused distress to family members and friends of those who perished in the fire. It is imperative, that at a time of socio-economic division, brought about by the fire, that the government and the people work hard to avoid a possible resurgence of racial ten-sions.This was also seen in 2011, af-ter the shooting of Mark Duggen by police forces, triggering the Tottenham Riots. It was similarly seen during the trial of the Ste-phen Lawrence murder, where Stephen, a black British teenager from Plumstead, South East Lon-don, was murdered in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus in Well Hall, Eltham on the evening of 22 April 1993.The case became a cause cele-bre; its fallout resulted in cultural changes of attitudes on racism, as well as changes to the law, police and police practise.It is from these examples that the Crown Prosecution Service should learn their lessons and act to prevent any further damage to the community around the area of North Kensington.You cannot fail to agree that as a society we should do our best to prevent the normalisation of belit-tling others in regards to their race, and depriving them of an honourable memory.


NO - Matthew King

To start, I would like to assert that what Paul Bussetti and his associates did was down-right immoral, callous and disre-spectful - as the son of a fireman and as a human being in general, I understand why this act has af-fected people, and why people are calling for their punishment.I agree that there needs to be justice for their actions, however I am strongly against this coming from the state or the police. Surely, more effort should be taken into investigating the still unknown causes of the Grenfell fire, and the rehousing and rehabilitation of those affected by it, before wasting time and resources on prosecuting a few jokers with a terrible sense of humour.The fact that, thus far, there have been no prosecutions for the actual fire, nor any real conclu-sions on how or why it started, makes this whole problem seem miniscule in comparison.As alluded to before, I would argue that the resources it would take to prosecute and perhaps in-carcerate these individuals, could have better use elsewhere, such as in the ongoing Grenfell investiga-tion. However, this is not simply a case of economics, but also a so-ciological debate; should what we say be punished legally? Whilst on one hand, I believe a firm yes - people who commit explicit hate crime and use hate speech in pub-lic should be prosecuted. On the other hand, is this act truly a hate crime? Whilst a hate crime targets a specific victim or group, it could be argued that this act has no specific audience, but a simply offensive, disgusting joke, that nobody finds funny. The idea that being an ass can lead to legal prosecution is an almost terrify-ing prospect, and reminds me of that (overused I know) Orwellian dystopia of state tyranny. Besides, surely state involvement is un-necessary; think about it - hardly anyone in the country is going to think that what these people did was good, or justifiable - so isn't the social disgrace enough? Imagine going to the super-market to buy your milk or being in a job interview, and being rec-ognised as the man who burnt a Grenfell tower model whilst imi-tating the voice of people in crisis, - you are not going to be applauded that's for sure. Therefore, again, why waste state resources with legal pros-ecution, when the people involved have already committed social sui-cide. The fact that Bussetti turned himself into the police further evi-dences this - he knows his life is over, he knows he has done some-thing wrong, and I don't see how locking him up would make this better. In an already crowded and un-derfunded prison system, why add more people unnecessarily? This would simply make both our pris-ons and this entire situation worse. To summarise: yes, these people are awful people; yes, their actions are indisputably disgusting; yes, they should be publicly scorned. But they should not be legally prosecuted - this would be bad for both our economy and democracy. Surely protecting these integral parts of our society and teaching the injustice of the actual Grenfell fire would be more beneficial than simply throwing a couple of idiots into a concrete box.

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