Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Common sense prevails

Home secretary Theresa May said the Government will accept a House of Lords amendment to remove the word "insulting" from Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The amendment had been promoted in the House of Lords by Lord Dear, a former HM Inspector of Constabulary. 

Six years ago police tried to prosecute Oxford student Sam Brown after he said to a mounted officer: “Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?" Mr Brown, who made the comment during a night out with friends in Oxford after his final exams, was arrested under section 5 of the Public Order Act for making homophobic remarks. However, after he refused to pay a £80 fine, the Crown Prosecution Service declined to pursue the case.  
The following year Kyle Little, a 16-year-old from Newcastle, was fined £50 with £150 costs for saying “woof” to a Labrador dog in front of police officers. Eventually the magistrates’ decision was overturned by a crown court. He had also been arrested and charged under the Public Order legislation.

The arrest of a 16 year old boy holding up a placard that said "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult". The 16-year-old was handed a court summons by City of London police for refusing to put down the placard during a peaceful protest outside the church's headquarters near St Paul's Cathedral. Scientology was founded by a science fiction writer and espouses the idea that humans are descended from an exiled race of aliens called Thetans.

Last month House of Lords vote saw peers vote overwhelmingly in favour of the change. Lord Dear, said that the law had “no place in our country” because the law was being “used to undermine free speech because of the way it is framed”. The amendment had also been pushed for by comedian Rowan Atkinson who had warned that criticism, unfavourable comparison or “merely stating an alternative point of view” could be interpreted as an insult and lead to arrest. 

Campaigners welcomed the change. Simon Calvert, Reform Section 5 campaign director, said he was “very pleased” by the Government’s statement. He said: “This is a victory for free speech. People of all shades of opinion have suffered at the hands of Section 5. “By accepting the Lords amendment to reform it the Government has managed to please the widest possible cross-section of society. They have done the right thing and we congratulate them.”


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please put your name to your comment. Comments without a name may automatically be treated as spam and might not be included.

If you do not wish your comment to be published say so in your comment. If you have a tip or sensitive information you’d prefer to share anonymously, you may do so. I will delete the comment after reading.