EDINBURGH – A high court in Scotland has charged a man with the equivalent of over $60,000 for criticizing a homosexual woman on Twitter.
Earlier this month, the Court of Session in Edinburgh—known as the supreme civil court of Scotland—ruled that 54-year-old David Shuttleton should give Jaye Richards-Hill $62,000 as restitution for Tweets he posted last year. Richards-Hill is an open homosexual, described by some as one of Scotland’s “leading gay rights campaigners.”
Last summer, Shuttleton—an antiques-dealer—and Richards-Hill—an education technologist—exchanged heated messages on Twitter, with Shuttleton labeling Richards-Hill a “fraud” whose homosexuality is “a danger to children.” Eventually, Richards-Hill filed a lawsuit against Shuttleton, citing defamation of character charges.
According to reports, the $62,000 fine was actually not decided by judges, but was instead a default punishment, since Shuttleton failed to file proper defense paperwork. He is vowing to appeal the decision, however, and told reporters, “I put my defense in the wrong format, so I’ve been working on it and it’s finished … It’s just the case went through in the meantime.”
When news of the court’s decision became public earlier this month, major media outlets in the United Kingdom quickly denounced Shuttleton. The Daily Mail labeled him a “Twitter troll” who had sent “hate-filled tweets,” while the Daily Record claimed he was a “bigot” who had aimed a “tirade of abuse” and a “vicious online hate campaign” against an innocent supporter of “equal marriage.”
A source close to Richards-Hill told the Daily Record that justice had been served, since Shuttleton is a “hypocrite” who “deserve[s] to be exposed.”
“The problem is the out-and-out homophobia this man spouts,” the source stated. “People do have fixed views on issues like gay marriage and the debate can get pretty robust. But it has to be on a respectful basis. When Shuttleton comes out with the things he does, it sets us back years and years. It needs to be challenged. If it’s not challenged, people get away with it, and this is how bigotry and prejudice develops.”
However, Shuttleton defended himself in a Daily Record interview, declaring that he was simply “an innocent Scotsman” who is being attacked by “the homosexual machine.”
“It’s an absolute scandal that homosexuals have got such power in our community,” he continued. “It’s an absolutely scandalous abuse of our laws. … We are talking about one of the most notorious and infamous extremist homosexual activist fanatics in the whole of Scotland here. She is an infamous, notorious Internet troll.”
Reactions to the heavy fine levied against Shuttleton have been mixed. One commenter argued that the lawsuit and resulting monetary punishment were appropriate.
“If someone started publicly insinuating that I was a pedophile,” the individual wrote, “I might be inclined to seek legal recourse as well, especially if I worked in a profession that dealt with children. Accusations like these (even if they’re baseless) can haunt a person for a lifetime. It seems to me like she did have the grounds to file a libel suit.”
However, another argued that the court’s charges were uncalled for and concerning.
“Speech, all speech, should be free,” the commenter wrote. “No average Joe should ever have to worry that his rants on Twitter will cost him $60k. If you allow them to come after his speech today, what’s to keep them from coming after your speech tomorrow? Everyone should chill out, and grow up.”