Saturday 21 January 2012

Help Protect Freedom of Speech

The National Secular Society has recently submitted a response to the Police Powers Consultation, calling on the Government to remove 'insulting' from Section 5 of the Public Order Act. A change in the law would protect freedom of expression for both the religious and non-religious. It would also lay down clearer guidelines for the police and direct them to focus on more serious cases.
The submission calls on the Government to recognise that the word 'insulting' sets the bar for criminal offence far too low. The risk of being arrested can in itself have a chilling effect, preventing people from expressing legitimate views. Section 5 would retain threatening and abusive conduct to cover serious offences and there are other existing laws to protect the individual. . . Read complete article here.

Independently of this an epetition has been filed on HM Government website:-

Protect Freedom of Speech by removing the word "insulting" from Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986

Responsible department: Home Office

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 forbids the use of "insulting words or behaviour" in a public place, if this is "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress". This provision has been responsible for a number of arrests in recent years. For instance, Leicestershire trader Tony Wright found himself arrested in 2005 for selling T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Bollocks to Blair". In 2008, a 16 year old boy was arrested for calling Scientology a "dangerous cult". In addition, members of a Worcester based animal rights group found themselves arrested in 2006 for using toy seals painted with red food dye as part of a protest against seal culling. Moreover, Oxford University student Sam Brown was arrested in 2005 for saying to a police officer “Mate, your horse is gay, I hope you don’t have a problem with that.” Feeling “insulted” should never constitute a crime by itself. Therefore, we the undersigned petition the government to remove the word "insulting" from Section 5.

A good response to this petition will provide added pressure on the government to revise this ill -conceived section of the Public Order Act. 

Please go to:- to sign the petition. 

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