Will Fuck For Coke

I got a new t-shirt a while ago it’s a red t-shirt with black writing that says “Will Fuck for Coke”. I was wondering if this slogan would be unlawful to display in public. I was thinking of the US case of Cohen v. California 403 U.S. 15 (1971) where the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a boy convicted for wearing a t-shirt that said “Fuck the Draft” and also of people arrested for wearing a cloths that said “Bollocks to Blair”[1] I looked into the legislation that might criminalise displaying my t-shirt. The first thing I found was s7 of Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 provides:-“(1) It shall be an offence for any person in a public place to distribute or display any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive, insulting or obscene with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace may be occasioned.”Sub-s 2 provides for a fine of £500 and/or 3 months in prison! This seemed a little crazy to me. Could I get fined and/or jailed for wearing this t-shirt?

So in order to be prosecuted under this provision it need to be shown a) that I displayed an obscene image and b) that I displayed it with intent or was reckless as to whether it would cause a breach of the peace.

Well you can take it that I did not intend to cause a breach of the peace and that leaves recklessness; it is outside the scope of this post for me to explain the law behind recklessness but suffice to say it could be argued that I was reckless. However, the Court, in a case taken against anti-abortion campaigners for displaying pictures of foetuses, dismissed the defendant because they did not intend to cause a breach of the peace[2] so does this mean that the recklessness element is not used in practice?

So this leaves the question is my t-shirt obscene? This question is material to all the other laws that I might be charged under like s3 Indecent Advertisements Act, 1889. There is not Constitutional or statutory definition of ‘obscene’ however, in the 1868 case of R v. Hicklin[3] the Court gave a definition of obscene. It said that obscene meant that if the stuff that was said to be obscene was to deprave those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands the publication might fall. As you can see this definition doesn’t really give much in way of help as to deciding if my t-shirt is obscene.

It seems even that under the European Convention of Human Rights Art10 that a large what is called ‘margin of appection’ is given to states to decide what is moral.[4]

So I guess that it is very unlikely that I could be successfully prosecuted but still perhaps possible I think that is a very sad thing in a democratic society.

1 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4955488.stm
2 Irish Times, 13th December 1995
3 R. V. Hicklin (1868) 3 QB 360
4 (1991) 13 EHRR 212

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6 Comments

Filed under civil rights, freedom of speech, irish law, law

6 responses to “Will Fuck For Coke

  1. Gloucester51

    Good morning:

    And just why would you wear such a t-shirt in public? I’m curious–you make a few good points in your posting about the constitutionality issue, but what would be your motiviation to put on a t-shirt with such a slogan and wear it in public?

    Is it to test the constitutionality of the limitations on free speech? Is it to get a laugh out of people?

    I ask you to consider this ramification: people may chuckle at it, but they walk away with a less favorable opinion of you or a poor impression of you based on what’s on your t-shirt. Put aside the fact that they may or may not see the statement as funny, it’s human nature for them to form an opinion of you based on the content of that slogan, which might be: (1) you have no problem using profanity as part of your vocabulary, and (2) you might actually have a coke (small “c”) problem.

    Both assumptions may not be accurate at all (I’m sure they are not), but that’s the impression many will walk away with.

    If someone were hard-pressed to insist on wearing the shirt in public, I would suggest they contact the media so as to milk the publicity for all it’s worth–especially if it’s to challenge the constitutionalilty of the limitations on free speech. But then again, any video of such an event will likely end up on YouTube, where family, friends, and potential employers can see it, or it may end up in print, whereby those same folks can Google your name and see all the news associated with your name.

    If you’re the anarchist type, then none of the potential ramifications of wearing such a t-shirt in public should be a concern for you….

    …but I always look both ways before I cross a street.

    • Robert Donohoe

      The reason why I would wear the tshirt is that I saw it and thought it was funny. Who’s to say why I did but, I did. I have no worries about friends or family seeing it in fact they have seen it.

      Perhaps, I liked the juxtapostion of the fact that the tshirt said I would fuck for coke but in reality I wouldn’t.

      Frankly, if people form negitave opinions of me when I am wearing the shirt I don’t care and it’s their loss.

      Rob

  2. Gloucester51

    Hi Rob:

    You really don’t care what people would think after seeing that shirt? How would they know that it’s truly “their loss” (i.e., not knowing the great person you probably are) when you have painted an unfavorable impression of yourself with that shirt? The shirt has acted as a perceptual barrier to anyone (a potential boss, girlfriend/wife, friend, etc.) not knowing the real you and being able to form a positive first impression.

    Just my $0.02.

  3. Robert Donohoe

    No really don’t care. If someone thinks less of me after seeing that shirt so be it.

  4. lou

    Hi Rob

    Bit late for this comment now but people in UK are occassionally arrested for wearing offensive t-shirts. I think it would be annoying for a parent if their kid started asking them what it meant but beyond that everyone needs to get over it.

    A person who makes a judgement about another person based on their t-shirt alone has nothing to say that I’m interested in hearing.

    The only think I would add to this pointless post I am making is that I saw people wearing that t-shirt at festivals in 2001… it was quite funny then but the moment had well and truly passed by 2008.

    Lou

  5. john smith

    Everybody who wears that t-… is a bastard

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