Sometimes, bad tweets come with consequences.
A Glasgow man who got drunk and wrote something mean about celebrated British army captain Sir Tom Moore on Twitter was sentenced to 150 hours of community service on Wednesday, skirting a possible jail sentence.
His tweet, made shortly after Moore’s death in February of last year, was legally considered “grossly offensive.”
In a case that seems absurd by U.S. standards of free speech, law enforcement arrested 36-year-old Joseph Kelly for posting, “the only good Brit soldier is a deed [sic] one, burn auld fella, buuuuurn.”
Moore was a 100-year-old veteran of World War II whose efforts to raise money for Britain’s National Health Service by walking laps around his garden at the start of the coronavirus pandemic inspired an outpouring of support.
He set out to raise 1,000 pounds but ended up bringing in nearly 33 million pounds at a time when the country’s nationalized health care system was ― like health care systems worldwide ― strapped for resources during the crisis.
Queen Elizabeth II knighted Moore at a special open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle in the summer of 2020.
“He took steps almost immediately to delete the tweet but the genie was out of the bottle by then,” said the lawyer, Tony Callahan. Kelly’s post was reportedly live for around 20 minutes.
Kelly was found guilty in January following a trial presided over by Sheriff Adrian Cottam, a Scottish judge. According to The National, a Scottish newspaper, Cottam threatened to jail Kelly during the trial proceedings because he kept shaking his head as the prosecutor spoke about Moore.
The U.K. Communications Act of 2003 made it a crime to send a message online that is “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.”
Cottam said he believed Kelly’s tweet fit that description.
“The deterrence is really to show people that despite the steps you took to try and recall matters, as soon as you press the blue button that’s it,” said the judge, according to the BBC.
Cottam said Kelly’s sentencing should help other people “realize how quickly things can get out of control.”
The judge ended on an unintentionally brutal note: “You are a good example of that, not having many followers.”