Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Brothers Arrested After Mocking Judge on Facebook

Do you ever feel like you just can't say anything anymore without paying for it? That's because we post our thoughts on social media, and some of us don't think much before we do. Now two brothers in England are thinking a lot about free speech on Facebook as they sit in jail, remanded into custody after insulting the judge who gave them suspended sentences.

Daniel and Samuel Sledden, along with their father, all pled guilty to trafficking in cannabis out of their home, according to The Guardian. The two sons -- Daniel, 27, and Samuel, 22 -- mocked Judge Beverly Lunt online just after she gave both suspended sentences. Now they are in custody again while she reconsiders the suspension and whether they should be incarcerated after all.

Can She Do That?

Judge Lunt did not claim to be harassed by the Facebook posts and said she does not plan to reconsider the actual sentences; she believes two years were appropriate. The question now is whether suspended sentences and conditional freedom was the right decision in light of the Sleddens' disrespect for the court. That means the Sledden brothers may spend two years incarcerated, rather than enjoying their suspended sentences.

Judge Lunt cannot hold the Sledden brothers in contempt of court because the Facebook comments were posted after the proceedings were over. But since contrition and remorse are a major element of a suspended sentence, and because the brothers both expressed disdain for the legal proceedings and the sentences they received, the judge can reconsider incarceration.

Lunt said, "It is the issue of suspension. Would I have done so had I appreciated, as I do now, their true views and what they really thought of the court proceedings?"

Too Much Too Soon

To merit their initial suspended sentences, the Sladden brothers each wrote letters of apology to the court prior to sentencing. Judge Lunt said before that the fact that they stayed out of trouble since picking up the charge -- and expressed remorse for their actions -- were reasons to be lenient with them.

But what the brothers wrote after they were sentenced was so offensive that Lunt would not even read it in court, saying only that they contained "offensive sexual elements." The younger Sladdens are back in custody while the judge reviews the transcript of the sentencing hearing to determine how much weight she gave to seeming expressions of remorse before.

The eldest Sladden, William, is 45 years old. He also received a suspended sentence, along with his sons, but remains free. He didn't post about his sentence on social media.

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