Letter of Complaint to De Montfort University About Breaching the Speech Rights of an FSU Member

A journalism student at De Montfort University and a member of the FSU alerted us to the fact that he was being formally investigated for bringing the University into disrepute after a left-wing activist made a complaint about him. He had got into an argument with this activist on Twitter over the prosecution of Daniel Thomas, a colleague of Tommy Robinson’s, for identifying the victim of a sexual offence. The student wasn’t defending Thomas’s behaviour, merely objecting to the fact that the left-wing activist was revelling in his prosecution, as if Thomas were a bigger criminal than members of grooming gangs convicted of sexual offences. Nothing the student tweeted in the course of this exchange was unlawful, nor was it in breach of any of Twitter’s rules. But following the activist’s complaint, the student’s department at De Montfort University decided to launch a formal investigation and, in short order, found him guilty and threatened him with expulsion from the University if he repeated the offence. This is a clear breach of the student’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as being contrary to the University’s own free speech policies and inconsistent with its legal duty to uphold free speech under s.43 of Education (Nº 2) Act 1986. The FSU was minded to mount a legal challenge immediately, but was dissuaded from doing so by the student. Instead, we have written to the investigating official and pointed out that De Montfort University’s behaviour is contrary to the law protecting freedom of speech, asked him to explain himself, and warned him that we will legally challenge any further sanctions that are imposed on our member. For a university to punish a journalism student for exercising his lawful right to free speech really is a scandal.

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