THE comedian Jo Brand has certainly caused a bit of a kerfuffle with her battery acid remark on the BBC the other day.

Brand has worked her way up from the now almost legendary "alternative comedy" scene of the 1980s to the heart of the TV world, where she has made numerous appearances on top shows such as Bake Off, Countdown and Comic Relief.

But now she finds herself in the centre of a free-speech row over her - to many, somewhat ill-considered - joke that Nigel Farage, instead of being milkshaked, should be splashed with acid.

One can quite understand why Mr Farage, and his supporters, might be upset by this.

But is it really something that required the intervention of the police, which is what actually happened?

The Metropolitan Police has publicly announced that it will not be taking action over Brand's feeble jest, but the worrying things are that (a) someone thought it would be sensible to complain to the police about it, and (b) the police felt that they had to act on the complaint, instead of gently urging the caller to get a grip.

This is the same Metropolitan Police that has seen 57 homicides on its patch so far this year. Can it really be the best use of precious and limited police time to investigate a joke by a comedian known for her sharp tongue?

Spoken, moreover, on a BBC radio show called Heresy, which is widely considered to have a brief to be "deliberately provocative"?

The worst aspect of this whole affair is that it plays into the hands of those who genuinely believe that speech should be regulated by the state - something that most people will rightly regard as abhorrent.

The state can simply not be trusted to use such a power wisely and the same is true of any organisation and person.

That someone was offended by Brand's joke - a joke made at a comedy show, where jokes are the order of the day - is not a good reason for the law to take action.

There seems to be an increasing tendency among some sorts of people to expect that anyone saying something that they do not like should be punished.

But in any free society, these people must recognise that their whims cannot be backed up by the force of law.