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Government to consider removing ‘insult’ from Public Order Act

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  1. theotherone 21 Jul 2011, 2:14pm

    it’s a pointless addition to the law anyway and, sadly, an attack on Free Speech. It’s so open to abuse you could drive a Police Truck through it.

    We need laws that are worded well not just laws.

  2. Jock S. Trap 21 Jul 2011, 2:39pm

    I disagree with Peter Tatchell on this.

    With Freedom of Speech must be responsiblity and the right not to be insulted esp by those who choose to be religious.

    1. Absolutely agree.

      Many of these individuals who mask their bigotry as Freedom of Speech seem to confuse that with a ‘Freedom to discriminate.’

      1. In which case, surely, the law will step in, since there is – and should be – a distinction between expressing your beliefs (“it says in the Bible that you’ll go to hell”) and implementing them (“I will not provide you with the service I provide all others because of your sexuality”).

  3. I hope we won’t get to a stage where the Christian’s won’t only be able to discriminate against us but also “insult” us at the same time…if you take this with the other change that the EHRC wants then it’s just one big excuse for the Christians to really sink their teeth into us…I totally disagree with PT..

  4. Peter Tatchell 21 Jul 2011, 3:23pm

    Sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 have been used to suppress peaceful, legitimate protests by human rights defenders, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners.

    This is what happened to members of the LGBT rights group OutRage! when six of us protested against 6,000 members the Islamist fundamentalist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, outside their mass rally at Wembley Arena in 1994.

    They called for the killing of gays, apostates, Jews and unchaste women. They were not arrested but we were. Our crime? We displayed placards that factually condemned Hizb ut-Tahrir’s incitement to murder and also the persecution of LGBT people by the Iranian regime. It was deemed that these placards were insulting and distressing.

    Freedom of expression is one of the most important of all human rights. It should be only restricted in extreme and very limited circumstances.

    1. Peter, from the info you give about your case it is obvious the police made the wrong call – perhaps under political pressure? That doesn’t mean the law itself is wrong.

      LGBT people are the subject of a concerted campaign by the reactinary christian movement to strip away such rights as they have and I’m really grateful we’ve got Stonewall on our side on this one

    2. Jock S. Trap 21 Jul 2011, 3:46pm

      “It should be only restricted in extreme and very limited circumstances.”

      Er, like if it’s meant towards black people or women?

    3. Tim Hopkins 21 Jul 2011, 4:10pm

      This law does not apply in Scotland. In Scotland, to be a public order offence, behaviour must be likely to cause fear or alarm or to incite public disorder – insulting language which is distressing, on it’s own is in theory at least not enough to be a crime. It does seem that the English law is not uniformly applied either which us a concern.

    4. Miguel Sanchez 21 Jul 2011, 4:12pm

      I can’t believe they’d allow people to spew dribble that’s racist. I believe in free speech but there is a limit on what we should be allowed to say.

      By allowing this, a black person could walk past someone spewing rubbish and then be called the “N” word.

      I’m sorry but in my opinion the is just WRONG.

    5. the trouble is that away from the gay scene the law is a useful one – it does depend on how it is prosecuted and how good the magistrates are. As a London magistrate I would say we are pretty good and can understand real insult and intention to insult – at minimum we try to – and at minimum I would say my experience of my colleagues is that they are a gay friendly and understanding.

  5. As long as we too are guaranteed the right to insult and offend christian or any other religious nutters, then fine. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I wonder if this covers freedom of expression such as burning bibles, qurans.

    1. Exactly. So I expect no further complaints regarding kissing in public and openly ridiculing the bible-thumpers.

  6. Stonewall are quite ight on this one and PT is quite wrong.
    It’s all very well for hard nosed stroppy people like him, who’ve made a career out of giving and taking insults in the street. But think about the potential affect on a vulnerable person if hellfire preachers are to have licencee to attack and condemn them in puiblic. If say a young person in company of their easily influenced religious parents …

    The present law is fine, the only problems arose where individual police went beyond the law – as witness the fact that the example given got compensation NOT a conviction. The remedy for any problems is better guidance and training of police (NOT TO MENTION PEOPLE WHO PRETEND TO BE CHRISTIAN BEING NICER!!!)

  7. Peter Tatchell…..

    “Protection of Freedoms Bill: Committee Stage Report Bill 189 of 2010-11
    RESEARCH PAPER 11/54 28 June 2011”

    IIn its report, “Adapting to Protest”, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary suggested that changing the law was not the answer. In many ways it was the constant changes to the Public Order Act that had led to operational confusion…”

  8. de Villiers 21 Jul 2011, 5:32pm

    I would have thought that the best way to deal with bad laws is to repeal them rather than allowing everything to be unlawful and leaving it to the discretion of the police. Otherwise, we are always liable to arbitrary prosecution for nearly everything we do or say.

    1. No proof it is a “bad” law mate! A few dodgy calls by the police only that doesn’t make it a “bad” law…

  9. Alf N Spit 21 Jul 2011, 5:59pm

    Are they also planning to do away with Section 31(1)(c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37) which creates the distinct offence of racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress? Surely Petr Tatchell’s demo could still be caught by that?

    It seems the only reason for the proposed amendment of the 1986 Act is because these days it is used to tackle public homophobia. It already has a built in defence of reasonableness.

  10. Peter Tatchell 21 Jul 2011, 6:43pm

    In order to ensure free speech, remarks and behaviour that are merely insulting and distressing should not be a criminal offence.

    Any controversial or dissenting viewpoint has the potential to upset someone and result in them complaining that they felt insulted or distressed.

    Causing insult or distress is far too low a threshold for criminalisation. It can inhibit protest and freedom of expression. There is no place for such a law in a democratic society.

    1. David Waite 21 Jul 2011, 10:44pm

      I’m almost at the end of my seventh decade (yes, I’m 69) and I’m a gay-and-black survivor of Dominionist missionary parents. I’ve been a civil rights activist since I was 13 and a GLBT rights activist since I was 16. I have seen such laws used, and they are almost always used against minority populations. Even in the US, with First Amendment protection, laws such as this one have been enacted to suppress minority speech and behavior, because cynical lawmakers know that it takes forever to get such a thing overturned by the Supreme Court.
      Peter, Mr Tatchell, every word of your comment is correct, beautifully said, and pure gold. Once again, I feel honored to share the same planet and species with you.

  11. dale mcalpine 21 Jul 2011, 9:39pm

    I agree Peter, and am thankful for your level headedness regarding this matter.

    Christians get insulted every day at the endless amount of blasphemy of God’s name aired on TV and at cinemas these days, not to mention the very insulting and deceptive representation of Christians as a whole by the media, could we get anyone arrested for that ?…of course not.

    John said ..”I hope we won’t get to a stage where the Christian’s won’t only be able to discriminate against us but also “insult” us at the same time”

    Don’t worry John, true Christians are not attempting to persecute anyone.

    No true Christian would attempt to abuse anyone for the sake of it if section 5 is quite rightly amended.

    This amendment would be better for those of us who value our freedoms and the whole nation , not just Christians.

    Think about that and don’t be so willing to give up your freedom in future.

  12. I can see why insults should be illegal as it can be inciting hatred

    1. If I was walking with my girlfriend in public, and someone decided to shout ‘look at the filthy lezzers, God hates them’, having been spewing ‘biblical’ homophobia previously is that merely insulting and distressing, or is it inciting hatred?
      Insulting and distressing is one thing, inciting hatred, further abuse and potential ABH or GBH is another thing entirely.
      The difference is knowing the law and which law is more likely to end in a conviction in the ‘right’ direction.
      I agree with Peter Tatchell, but we have to be more canny and better educated in our use of the law.

      1. May depend where you say it…in an open street or in a place full of religious nuters…in your example I can’t see it being more that insulting and distressing and if the police thought it was a valid complaint subject to the not so harsh offence of inciting hatred….I don’t see why we can’t continue to have protection for both the lesser and greater offences..they are different and the police have said they are not better trained in dealing with them…why not leave the law as it is?

  13. Hodge Podge 22 Jul 2011, 1:46pm

    This same clause led to an anti-Scientology protester being arrested in 2008, so it cuts both ways.

  14. Bring this repeal on and let’s stop this ridiculous knee-jerking to the slightest perceived insult. We must stop pretending to be the thought police and empower ourselves to either ignore our detractors – not reacting stops them in their tracks if they then have nothing to react against – or use intellectualism as a means to express our contempt towards their unproductive and fruitless insults. Mainstream society is fast growing fed up of “tragedy gays” who play the eternal victim and cling to the injustices of the past like some kind of a security blanket, infesting these boards with their tales of woe. Yet it’s only little, insecure people who feel better about themselves by insulting and pulling others down. By reacting with the same level of insults, we are equating ourselves on their level. In other words we become the very thing we purport to be fighting against. Repealing this inane “crime” will be a step towards breaking this vicious cycle once and for all.

  15. Right to offend and discriminate should be inc in the Freedom of speech and expression, and deffamation laws should be abolished too.

  16. have no hatred in my heart for homosexuals and lesbians. However, my belief, as a Christian is that these acts are sinful. Providing I express these views in a peaceful manner I should not have the police harassing me.

    Equally, if non-Christians wish to say that we are deluded nut-cases then I would defend their right of free speech.

    Even if the “insult” clause is removed the police would still have the powers to deal with extreme behaviour and verbal abuse.

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