In 2017, Chelsea Russell, a Liverpool teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, paid tribute on her Instagram profile to a 13-year-old friend who died when he was hit by a car. She quoted the lyrics of a rap song, ‘I’m Trippin’’ by Snap Dogg, alongside the phrase ‘RIP Frankie Murphy’. Many other teenagers used the lyrics to pay tribute to Murphy.
A year later, Russell’s profile came to the attention of the police, who decided to arrest her and have her charged. The lyrics she quoted – ‘Kill a snitch nigga, rob a rich nigga’ – were found in court to be ‘grossly offensive’ and Russell was convicted of a hate crime. For nothing more than quoting rap lyrics, she was placed on an eight-week, 8am-to-8pm curfew, fitted with an ankle tag, ordered to pay £500 costs and an £85 ‘victim surcharge’.
Last week, the conviction was overturned on appeal. Russell’s defence lawyer slammed the initial verdict as ‘ridiculous’, akin to the actions of a ‘totalitarian state’.
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