“It might surprise you to know that under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, the police and the courts can decide if you or someone else might feel insulted” states the front page of the Reform Section 5 campaign’s website.
But this is unlikely to surprise many Lib Dems, who just a couple of months ago, at our Spring Conference in Gateshead, passed a motion (pdf) which called for the right to free speech to be protected through:
The repeal of section 5 of the Public Order Act, which creates ‘non-intentional’ speech offences, and the removal of ‘insulting’ from Section 4A of the Public Order Act, both of which have been used to criminalise legitimate freedom of expression.
This motion actually goes further than the campaign is suggesting, calling for the complete repeal of section 5 of the Act rather than simply the removal of the word ‘insulting’. The reason, presumably, for this is that section 5 as a whole is drafted in such wide terms that it’s very easy to see a whole range of behaviour being criminalised for no good reason.
Nevertheless, many Lib Dems will welcome what seems a very well organised campaign (judging by the media coverage yesterday) with a broad range of supporters, including Peter Tatchell and David Davis (though curiously there is no mention of the Lib Dems).
* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.