In the courtroom where Bobby’s mother and her partner stand accused of murder, horrific details of how Bobby died have poured out – the details of which have led to humiliating jokes and puns on the website Flashback Forum.
The vast majority are in such poor taste that they can’t be quoted in this article, but many focus on Bobby’s skin colour and handicap.
Chief public prosecutor, Sven-Erik Alhem, who has responsibility for hate crimes, reacted immediately and referred the case to his colleague Mats Svensson.
“This really does mark a new low in my opinion,” said Alhem.
But although the jokes are deeply offensive to many people, that doesn’t mean they are illegal.
“My initial feeling is that they are not criminal, even if the jokes are incredibly tasteless,” said Mats Svensson to TT.
The material could represent breaches of racial anti-hate legislation or libel or slander laws.
After a preliminary reading of the case, Svensson doesn’t think this is an example of race hate, since the jokes aren’t directed against a particular ethnic group.
“The boy is the only object of the jokes,” said Svensson.
The coarse, personal nature of the material could have been sufficient to lead to criminal proceedings for slander, but that avenue is closed because Bobby is dead. According to the law, the dead can’t be slandered.
Libel isn’t a possibility either because Bobby isn’t accused of being criminal or responsible for a wrong, which are the legal criteria.
Flashback Forum is a website which claims to be a campaigner for freedom of speech. It was shut down in Sweden three years ago, but is now based in the United Kingdom. Founder of the controversial site, Jan Axelsson, has defended the publication of the Bobby jokes.
“Debate must be free. We believe in freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. In such circumstances, we can’t have censorship on grounds of taste,” Axelsson told TT.
Axelsson is certain the contributions are within the letter of the law and doesn’t think they represent a personal attack.
A 28 year old student in Stockholm, who also published the jokes, decided to close his website today.
“I think it’s possible to joke about anything, but I realise that there are people who thought it was offensive so I’ve closed the site,” he said.