Tag Archives: public order act

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.

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Why won’t the Government get rid of this pesky threat to free speech that nobody wants?

On Wednesday evening, Lord Mawhinney tabled an amendment (no.155) in the House of Lords to remove the word “insulting” from Section 5 of the Public Order Act to flush out the Government’s attitude on this catchall provision with a very low prosecution threshold that tarnishes our reputation for freedom of expression.

Section 5 has served to nobble those engaged in mischievous, but harmless, pranks, street preachers, and those pouring scorn on religion, but, worse, also those speaking truth to power. Of even greater concern is the chilling effect: what, for fear of prosecution, has not been said but should have …

Posted in News, Parliament and The Independent View | Also tagged | 11 Comments

Lib Dem policy goes viral as ‘Reform Section 5′ campaign launched

“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

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Julian Huppert MP writes… The Public Order Act: More than a little insulting

What do Peter Tatchell and the Christian Institute have in common? Before you answer, this isn’t some deeply unfunny jibe from a Coalition colleague, but one of many unexpected alliances which have formed to oppose Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.

This rather insidious Section criminalises all those who use “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour” within the hearing or sight of a person “likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress”. It also applies to those who display “any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting”.

A rather wordy …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

Tom Brake writes: The Freedom Bill is a staging post towards an even freer society

The Freedom Bill is clear evidence of the Liberal Democrats setting the political agenda and making a positive difference to how we live in Britain.

It’s our robust answer to unwelcome and unwarranted intrusions into our everyday lives. It starts the dismantling of an overbearing surveillance state and restores British civil liberties that we used to be able to take for granted.

At the heart of the Bill is a commitment to safeguarding and protecting individuals and national security. What has felt to many like an obsession of the state to monitor our every waking moment is broken down by the …

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Tory Councillor found guilty of gay slur

Cllr Peter Willows, a long-standing Conservative councillor in Brighton and Hove has today been found guilty of a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which outlaws language causing alarm, distress or harassment.

He was alleged to have likened homosexuals to paedophiles, at a reception hosted by the mayor of Brighton and Hove.

Pink News had a reporter in the hearing and will doubtless have more soon.

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