A Dutch appeals court fined a man €200 (US$290) Friday for insulting a policeman by calling him a "homo."
Though not a crime in many countries like the United States, insulting an officer is an offense punishable by a jail sentence of up to three months in the Netherlands.
The legal question was whether "homo," an acceptable term for homosexual in the Dutch language, was meant in this case to be an insult.
The court in Den Bosch overturned a lower court ruling that the word "in principle has no offensive nature and thus by definition isn't appropriate for an insult."
The incident occurred early on New Year's Day 2007 when the defendant came across several officers issuing tickets he felt were unnecessary, and began chanting "ho-mos, ho-mos."
One officer filed charges, saying he felt his "honor and good name" had been slighted.
At an appeals hearing this month, the 19-year-old defendant, who was not identified in the published ruling, explained that he used the term to mean something like "jerks" or "bastards," and didn't believe the officer was truly offended.
However, the appellate court found that explanation undermined the lower court's opinion that the defendant meant "homo" in the sense of "homosexual," which would not be considered an insult.
"The defense misunderstands that the use of a word in a certain context _ for instance during sexual education or in a friendly setting _ actually can have the effect of damaging someone's integrity when it's used as a curse and thus with intent to insult," the court said.
Given the defendant's testimony, "there can be no doubt about the intent to insult."
What interests me most about this story is that insulting an officer is actually a crime. The entire Dutch debate around the murder of Theo van Gogh was predicated around the right to insult being part of the right to freedom of speech.
Secondarily, of course, is the funny politically correct dance that's going on in the courtroom.
In my opinion, the cop and the bigot _ I mean, the defendant _ are both jerks.