The trial of a British police officer facing criminal charges for sharing an “offensive meme” of George Floyd has begun, and the court is expected to deliver its verdict next month.
Charges were filed against the officer, Geraint Jones, after he shared a variation of the semi-popular Wardy Joubert III meme, with Derek Chauvin replaced with Joubert.
The 45-year-old officer, who has served as a first responder for 23 years, did not post the image publicly, instead sharing it in a private WhatsApp group with eight other people, many of whom responded with “laughing” emojis.
Under a UK law known as the Communications Act of 2003, it is a criminal offense in the country to send material that is “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” over any “public electronic communications network.”
Interim guidelines issued by the British Director of Public Prosecutions (the rough equivalent to the U.S. attorney general) in 2013 state that prosecutors should consider if a communication was aggravated by racial factors. At the time, the Director of Public Prosecutions was Keir Starmer, now the leader of the Labour party.
The interim guidelines issued by Starmer in 2013 also state that prosecutions for so-called malicious communications can be avoided if the message “was not intended for a wide audience, nor was the obvious consequence of sending the communication.”
Whether the court will deem a WhatsApp group consisting of eight people to be a “wide audience” remains to be seen.
Speaking at the trial, officer Jones said that thousands of people shared the meme before it reached him, and the court risked criminalizing all of them.
“I knew that meme was going viral at the time and they had seen it in various shapes and forms,” Jones told the court. “I saw the comedy of it because I found the character amusing and where he turns up.
“Maybe I was after a cheap laugh or trying to raise a smile. I didn’t think about it deeply and I didn’t look at the image in detail.”
He continued: “I never envisioned that I would end up in court. I know that there must be tens of thousands of people who have shared it thinking it’s humorous, probably hundreds of thousands. We don’t want to run the risk of criminalising all those people.”
A verdict on the case is expected in April.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.