A 34 year-old woman, Emma West, from south London has been arrested after video of her ranting racist remarks about how “Poles and blacks should go back home” went viral on the internet and Twitter.
The video was taken by Kelly Hollingsworth on one of the UK's few trams, in between Croydon, close to where I grew up, and nearby New Addington.
As you can see by the video, the woman, holding her young son in her arms, is clearly drunk and what spews from her mouth is revolting.
Everyone who watches the video probably thinks the same thing: poor, poor kid having a mother like that.
I thought the same. But what happened next makes me squirm almost as much as watching the video does.
Last night, Kelly Holliongsworth, who took the video, tweeted: “Ok so this women's been arrested. I guess my video was a success. This has caused quite a bit of hype...”
It certainly caused hype – it also caused a tweeting frenzy, with many grassing the woman up to the cops. But was it a success that the rancid rants of a racist led to an arrest?
What is encouraging about the video is that people challenged this woman – they didn't do what the British often do: hide behind a newspaper and pretend this embarrassing thing isn't happening.
And challenging racist outbursts can sometimes be a good thing. But getting the cops dragged into this is not.
Never to miss a trick, politicians got in the act too. Leader of the Labour Party, Ed 'Who?' Miliband, tweeted: “Important appeal from [British Transport Police] to identify the woman shouting racist abuse on a tram in London.”
But the question must be asked: should mouthing off in public one's sad old racist prejudices be a criminal offence?