Gazza’s 21st-century show trial should worry us all

Is it a crime now to tell rubbish jokes? The bizarre and frankly cruel treatment of Paul Gascoigne suggests it might be. Yesterday, at Dudley Magistrates Court, Gazza was found guilty of using ‘threatening or abusive words’ and fined £2,000. His crime was to say the following about a black security guard who had been assigned to look after him during his show An Evening With Gazza at Wolverhampton Civic Hall last year: ‘Can you smile please, because I can’t see you?’ Some people might find that funny; I, personally, don’t. But a court case? A criminal record? A fine? For cracking a joke? The precedent set by this case is terrifying.

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