Lib Dem success as Home Secretary confirms government to back amendment to Public Order Act

The Guardian reports that, following a high-profile campaign, the government has agreed to retain an amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill going some way to implementing Lib Dem party policy (pdf) on the Public Order Act:

In a government climb down, the Public Order Act that covers speech and writing on signs and states: “A person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour”, will be changed to remove the word insulting. The move follows a high-profile campaign which united Christian and secular groups and was spearheaded by the comedian Rowan Atkinson, the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the former shadow home secretary David Davis.

The push to change section five of the act followed a series of headline-grabbing arrests and prosecutions ranging from an Oxford student asking a police officer “Do you realise your horse is gay?” which Thames Valley police described as homophobic and “offensive to people passing by”, to a 16 year old holding up a placard that said “Scientology is a dangerous cult”.

In December, the government suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Lords which voted 150 votes to 54 in favour of an amendment to remove the word “insulting”. Campaigners had complained the clause had been used by police as a “catch-all” offence to arrest people on trivial matters. It will continue to be illegal to use insulting language when an victim is clearly identifiable.

May told MPs the government was “not minded to challenge the amendment” made by the Lords even though ministers “believe that the police should be able to take action when they are sworn at, when protesters burn poppies on Armistice day and in similar scenarios”.

She added: “I respect the review taken by their lordships, they had concerns which I know are shared by some in this House that Section 5 encroaches upon freedom of expression. On the other hand the view expressed by many in the police is that Section 5 including the word ‘insulting’ is a valuable tool in helping them keep the peace and maintain public order.

* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/32654 for Twitter and emails.

2 Comments

  • “On the other hand the view expressed by many in the police is that Section 5 including the word ‘insulting’ is a valuable tool in helping them”

    That’s the whole point.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jan '13 - 1:23pm

    Good news for Andrew Mitchell? ;-)

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User Avatarsimon 2nd Sep - 9:49pm
    I see that a former British soldier David Haines will be the next western hostage beheaded by IS, Presumably by his fellow "Briton" from the...
  • User AvatarPaul K 2nd Sep - 9:13pm
    As well as protecting the environment and tackling climate change, we should be defending localism. If Southampton residents want to expand their local airport that's...
  • User AvatarTim13 2nd Sep - 9:11pm
    The point is, no country has ever joined the EU having previously been part of another member state, So that assertion of Alexander's is meaningless....
  • User AvatarMartin 2nd Sep - 8:48pm
    Oh dear Danny! I thought you had begun to switch to a more positive mode. Statements like this read as an act of political hari...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 2nd Sep - 8:42pm
    I am told that pegging one currency to another, while avoiding a black market situation, requires a central bank to buy and sell foreign currency...
  • User AvatarHelen Dudden 2nd Sep - 8:40pm
    At A fairly recent meeting on law, I spoke about the problems of children and international law. Not one of your MP's are in the...