A 12-year-old boy in the United Kingdom (UK) has been arrested for allegedly sending racist messages to an adult soccer player.
Wilfried Zaha, a 27-year-old professional soccer player who plays as a forward for Premier League club Crystal Palace, was the recipient of the messages.
Zaha subsequently posted a screenshot of the messages on Twitter which included profanity, racist terminology, pictures of the Ku Klux Klan as well as the personal account information of the adolescent who sent him the messages.
The West Midlands Police Department announced on Twitter on July 12 that their department had arrested the young kid.
“ARRESTED. We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy. The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won’t be tolerated,” the tweet said.
One day later, on July 13, the department gave an update on the case with a follow-up tweet.
“The 12-year-old boy arrested in connection with racist social media messages sent to a footballer has been released under investigation while our enquiries continue. Racism has no place in society and we’re attempting to contact the footballer to obtain a statement.”
Zaha also took to Twitter on July 13 to thank the police for arresting the 12-year-old.
“I want to thank West Midlands Police for their swift action in making an arrest. People need to understand that whatever your age, that your behavior and your words come with consequences and you cannot hide behind social media,” Zaha wrote.
The tweet has received over 72,000 likes.
According to Fox News, both Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson and The Premier League released statements saying that they supported Zaha going public with the matter.
It’s unclear at this point what laws the 12-year-old may have broken. However, it seems likely that the kid may have violated one of the UK’s strict laws against so-called hate speech.
Section Four of the Public Order Act 1986 makes it illegal for someone to use “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior that causes, or is likely to cause, another person harassment, alarm or distress.”
Additionally, Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it illegal to “send a message via a public electronic communications network that is considered grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.”
The debate over whether hate speech should be outlawed may be settled over in the UK, but it continues to heat up in the United States.
What do you think? Should hate speech be illegal? Should a 12-year-old be arrested for sending hateful messages to an adult?
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