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Comment: Repeal the Public Order Act’s sweeping Section 5

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  1. Christine Beckett 17 Jan 2012, 1:53pm

    If it’s repealed, does that mean folk can start calling coloured people names again?

    The problem is not with Section 5, but with the way the Police interpret it to suit themselves.

    All it needs is a few more cases thrown out of court for the police to finally realise that their interpretation is incorrect, and that they are abusing their authority.

    Tatchell is advocating throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I admire the guy, but I really wish he would engage his brain before speaking sometimes.

    1. If it’s repealed, does that mean folk can start calling coloured people names again?

      What like “coloured”?

      I agree with you re the baby with the bathwater. I don’t see why they can’t either just amend the act to make it more clear and less likely to be abused or replace it with something better worded.

    2. You ignorant cow. Coloured is offensive do you live in a forest or something

  2. Jock S. Trap 17 Jan 2012, 2:16pm

    “Section 5 has been also used unjustly against Christian street preachers who have merely condemned homosexuality, without being aggressive or threatening.”

    Really Peter, coz whenever I’ve heard them it always been both agressive and threatening. Calling for us to be punished and burn it both aggressive and threatened and should be dealth with by the law.

    How can we expect to be treated with the respect we all deserve if we allow such discrimination to go unpunished?

    On this you are wrong Mr Tatchell. Just as the black community deserve respect and be free from discrimination why are we so different.

    The law as it stands is there to teach and respect fellow human being and to say otherwise is dangerous and likely to be opened up for abuse. Surely you don’t want that Mr. Tatchell?

    Haven’t we as a community had enough of this vile behaviour over the years and hasn’t your work been meant to stop the abuse of our community? So why now are we different?

    On this you are wrong.

  3. I’d be very very wary of the people campaigning for Section 5’s repeal.
    The Christian Institute is one of its biggest critics and they have a long history of banning the slightest dissent on their facebook page to make it look like everyone agrees with their policies.
    They want to decriminalise insulting and offensive words so long as they’re not directed at religious nutters. FACT!!

    1. Perfectly said. Islamists do not like section 5 either. It allows us too much speech apparently…

      Still, I’ll expect the overtly pc queers to turn up defending them.

  4. So, what about those “Gay-free Zone” signs that were put up in East London?

    Would they still be illegal if section 5 were repealed? That is the section under which Mohammed Hasnath was convicted.

    1. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 3:54am

      Probably not!

  5. Dr Robin Guthrie 17 Jan 2012, 2:59pm

    Sorry Peter. On this you are very very WRONG.

  6. Robert in S. Kensington 17 Jan 2012, 3:08pm

    I have nothing against total freedom of speech even if they’re life threatening but by the same token, I don’t want to see an exemption for any religious denomination to hurl their collective venom which may incite others so inclined to commit violent acts against us. We should be free to give it right back to them, please or offend their beliefs without exception.

    1. Jock S. Trap 17 Jan 2012, 3:43pm

      Excellent comment, so well said!

    2. @Robert

      You see thats where I disagree with you …

      I prefer a civilied, hospitable, honest and fair society …

      I don’t think that includes shouting abuse or “giving it back to them” …

      1. oops civilised

  7. It acts as a deterrent. The only people wanting rid of it are Christian zealots and the like.

    1. Don’t forget about Muslims! They are even more homophobic!

  8. I completely disagree with Peter. I think this law does not need to be repealed and should stay as it is. I haven’t been agreeing with alot of Peters views for some time now. I admire what he has done for our community. I do however think that he is not my spokesman, aswell as many other LGBT people in the country and that he needs to realise that. I think it is about time that Peter let the next generation take over campaigning. I am not saying that he isn’t entitled to his views. But he shouldn’t be our spokesman if he is in favour of changing a law which protects our community from homophobes! A law that most of the gay people i know think should remain.

  9. I also don’t agree with Peter on this one. Section 5 is there for a reason. It should NOT be repealed. This would play into the hands of homophobic muslims and christians.

  10. So if this is repealed then racists would be able to call black people the N-word? The same way as they would be allowed to call us things like filthy faggots and be able to say that we should be put to death? Well i for one do not want that to happen. I’m sure Mr Tatchell’s means well, but on this one, i have to disagree with him.

  11. I do not think that the Public Order Act Section 5 should be repealed. I do think that the wording of the act needs to be changed though so that the right people get convicted.

  12. To Jamie and Christine, the “N Word” could continue to be prevented, if used with “intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress” – by virtue of Section 4a of the 1986 Act. Peter is not calling for the removal of “abusive language” from that provision. Indeed, the ‘N word’ could continue to be prevented by virtue of Section 4, which prevents “insulting/abusive language when this is “likely to provoke violence or leave people in fear of violence”, or by the police’s “breach of the peace powers”, or indeed, by virtue of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

    Also Christine – Harry Hammond was found guilty of using insulting words, simply for holding a placard which read “Stop homosexuality, stop lesbianism, stop sin”. He was never acquitted. Furthermore, Mark Norwood was found guilty for the same offence, for displaying a poster which read “Islam out – protect the UK”. He was never acquitted either. In other words, a lot more than “mistaken arrests” are taking place here.

    1. “Furthermore, Mark Norwood was found guilty for the same offence, for displaying a poster which read “Islam out – protect the UK”.”

      Well that wording is offensive, and in my opinion racist, sorry. It doesn’t refer to homophobic muslims but to all muslims. Most british muslims were born here, and most are from a distinct ethnic minority.

      I have absolutely no objection to protesting against specific muslims who have made homophobic remarks or threats but to attack all muslims for their actions? Not on.

  13. To Jamie and Christine, the “N Word” could continue to be prevented, if used with “intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress” – by virtue of Section 4a of the 1986 Act. Peter is not calling for the removal of “abusive language” from that provision. Indeed, the ‘N word’ could continue to be prevented by virtue of Section 4, which prevents “insulting/abusive language when such words are “likely to provoke violence or leave people in fear of violence”, or by the police’s “breach of the peace powers”, or indeed, by virtue of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

    Also Christine – Harry Hammond was found guilty of using insulting words, simply for holding a placard which read “Stop homosexuality, stop lesbianism, stop sin”. He was never acquitted. Furthermore, Mark Norwood was found guilty for the same offence, for displaying a poster which read “Islam out – protect the UK”. He was never acquitted either. In other words, a lot more than “mistaken arrests” are taking place here.

    1. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 3:48am

      Ben, the sign which Mark Norwood displayed in the window of his flat from November 2001 through to January 2002 depicted United Airlines flight 175 crashing into the south tower of the WTC.: I quote from the judgment of Lord Justice Auld who gave judgment in Mr Norwood’s appeal:

      “The Magistrate found the following facts, which I take from paragraph 2 of the case stated. On 9th January 2002 the appellant displayed a poster, measuring about 24 inches wide and 15 inches deep, in the first-floor window of his flat in Gobowen, a small rural town in Shropshire, containing words in very large print “Islam out of Britain” and “Protect the British people”. And it bore a reproduction of a photograph of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in flames on 11th September 2001 and a Crescent and Star surrounded by a prohibition sign.”

      It’s a matter of record that the poster was produced by the BNP of which Mr Norwood was a regional official. You might want to choose a better example?

  14. Don’t overlook the fact that Section 5 has also been used to prosecute gay men at cruising areas. Legally speaking it should be Section 66 of the 2003 Sexual Offences Act- but in practice- Section 5 is used- despite the fact that it was never intended for this purpose.

    1. well, forgive me – or don’t – I do not care, but maybe some gay men should keep it to their bedroom.

      Just giving us a lot of headaches really. Not to mention other choice things.

    2. I’m a gay man and i think that gay guys shouldn’t deliberatly be crusing outside for sex.

      1. I disagree- but we are all different. My point was basically about the way Section 5 is used in practice- not as it was intended to be used when drafted. Sorry.

  15. Peter Tatchell 17 Jan 2012, 5:58pm

    Sections 4 and 4A can be used to deal with the issues raised by several people who’ve posted comments here. Section 5 is not essential to combat threats, violence and harassment.

    1. Section 5 is unlikely to have succeeded in the Tower Hamlets poster case

      Peter, all the cases mentioned where section 5 has been mentioned as a “Problem” such as the Cumbrian arrest of the Christian preaching , did not result in conviction … the checks and balances worked …

      Are you saying that repeatedly provocative and abusive language towards anyone – but including those in authoirty is acceptable?

      Section4 and 4a do not cover abusive language that is not individualised … it is only individualised abuse or threats …

      If someone stands outside my house and repeatedly shouts abuse which they are not directing at me then in terms of public order offences unless section 5 exists – the public order act 1986 is powerless … the power of arrest is breach of the peace, but this only provides a bind over as a penalty …

      You are profoundly wrong on this, Peter

      1. Correction section 4 or 4a are unlikely to have succeeded in Tower Hamlets – section 5 was the only workable offence identified – others were reviewed by several legal advisors …

        I am sure they have the legal acumen to determine if other offences occurred …

        1. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 3:11am

          Stu – I agree. It was made quite clear at the time of the gay free zone sticker case that the police saw the stickers as insulting at best. I suspect the case would not be prosecuted under an amended section 5. And it wasn’t just the sticker case where it’s been an issue; the poppy burning was another example which led to further breakdown in community cohesion. And in case anyone thinks I’m concentrating on one section of the community, check out the case of Norwood v DPP

  16. Totally disagree with PT …only disingenious groups want this law changed, the police don’t want it changed and most of the LGBT community don’t want it changed as well. So please stop banging on about it PT, you really aren’t thinking of the majoirty of people at all but only a select group of people who find it necessary to cuase a rumpus in the street and abuse people.

  17. Peter:
    I for one like what you wrote and agree because there are too many incidents when a person takes offence over a perceived insult and the person doing the supposed insult is then in trouble – just plain ridiculous and irksome too.

    Having said that, my endorsement of your views is likely to be kiss of death :-)

  18. ‘It is time Section 5 was repealed, to allow freedom of expression without the threat of arrest.’

    Too true.

    You have the right to be offended and – as this gay man – I have the right to offend.

    All of you. Religious, gay, straight, black. white or not. Stop being precious and get over it.

  19. You are quite right, Peter. The Pubic Order Act is far too loosely worded and open to abuse.

    I have often said on here that such legislation is the top of a slippery slope into totalitarianism, fascism and dictatorship, yet it’s – albeit the more extreme and radical elements of – the gay community that is demanding ever more restrictions on free speech!

    It may not happen tomorrow or the day after, but the day will surely come when the law is used against every person’s right to speak on most subjects openly and freely, lest they fear a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

    1984 wasn’t a fairytale. It was a warning of what happens when the people give away their freedoms and surrender total control to the state…

    1. I profooundly and utterly disagree with you Samuel

      Can you show me any miscarriages of justice involving section 5 where the checks and balances did not work?

      1. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 2:47am

        Just one springs to mind Stu – the case of Harry Hammond [2004] EWHC 69. Harry Hammond was a street preacher in Bournemouth who was convicted for carrying a sign “Stop immorality. Stop homosexuality. Stop Lesbianism.” He was arrested following a disturbance in street and was convicted under section 5. He appealed against the verdict but died before his appeal could be heard. Personally I don’t find the words on the sign insulting, but then again he had caused problems in the town centre before and knew some people found his preaching offensive.

        1. Thanks, Becky

          Personally I wouldnt find that insulting either

          Also think as miscarriage of justice its a dubious one due to death … if it was a wrong conviction (and I dont know the case – would have to get the books out … and I might when not being insomniac!,) then in one sense that is fair to say but neither side is afforded the option of appeal or further appeal if the Hammond has died …

          Also if there is only one or two cases in the tens of thousands of section 5 cases each year … (I know i made dozens of arrests for it when a police officer) … then whilst important to those one or two people – it suggests the checks and balances, on the whole, work …

          1. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 3:26am

            I agree & I saw quite a few in my time with the CPS. If you look at the cases that Liberty, Justice, Peter and others are citing, about half of them never went to court because the CPS dropped the case and in others the defendants were acquitted. In the seal ‘case’ in Worcester, no-one was as much as arrested and some of the cases don’t even turn on the word “insulting”. The Kyle Little case was all about disorderly conduct as was the gay police horse case. It’s a ludicrous argument; ad absurdum you might as well argue the police are wrongfully arresting too many people for committing murder so we need to change the homicide laws.

          2. @essexgirlbecky

            Absolutely … some cases police will consider section 5 – may even give out the warning prior to arrest, but then whilst in a dynamic review of the situation decide (for whatever reason – and it may include a consideration that legally the use of the law is dubious) not to even arrest and to calm the situation in another way …

            Some cases will result in arrest and the officer who was involved is told either by the custody officer or their direct supervision that they have overstepped the mark and to either release or de-arrest …

            Other cases will reach the CPS and the reviewing prosecutor will reject the case as either having insufficient evidence, not being in the public interest etc

            Even if all police involved AND the CPS agree that prosecution is appropriate then the test of court proceedings with defence exists – with the option to appeal …

            If cases have been wrong (and I would argue most – if not all – have been detected by safeguards) then its not …

          3. … the law per se that is wrong, its the application of the law. Perhaps better guidance could be offered (although I think the use of safeguards demonstrate that it is generally well used law).

            As Boris Johnson (who I usually profoundly disagree with) said – we do not want to see a society where people feel they can repeatedly abuse the police (or others) with impuignity …

      2. de Villiers 18 Jan 2012, 8:29am

        These are magistrates court cases. It would be difficult to find high profile miscarriages.

        1. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 9:24am

          Of course these are magistrates court cases. The offence can only be tried in the magistrates court.

      3. I suggested we may be only at the top of a slippery slope; only the passage of time can show us how/if this law is abused or unjustly extended by authority.

        We need only to look at other laws that have sprung up, for example in the name of protecting the people from terrorism, to see how those very laws have and are being used against the people themselves.

        Certainly, if the abuse of these laws was immediate and full-on there would be mass outrage and demand for the laws to either be cut back, or those abusing said laws forced to toe the line.

        What inevitably happens, however, is that there is a gradual drip drip of the abuse of power so that the public are not aware of the change on a day to day basis.

        Just look at how police in the US are killing bystanders in the streets with tazers and policing and attacking kids in their own classrooms due to the merest suggestion of provocation. Police violence is now so common place in the US that people accept such behaviour as normal.

        1. @Smauel B

          This law has been in place since 1986 and no one can provide a clear cut case of a miscarriage of justice …

          There are safeguards in place …

          They work …

          I feel very strongly your assimilation of excessive and deadly force by US police into a debate on section 5 public order in the UK is wrong and inflammatory …

          1. Well, to prove my point, there has been an escalation in the number of cases this law has been enacted upon, and agree or disagree there is a sizeable proportion of the gay community who feel it is being cited for more frivolous reasons to the point where we are being seen my the masses to be crying wolf most of the time.

            The result being that the public at large start to lose the respect our community has effortlessly been working at building up over the past 20 years as they increasingly view us as reactionaries and cry babies who can’t fight their own corner in less serious cases and go crying to the police every time a perceived insult has been aimed at us, no matter how tenuous.

            The day will come quite soon when a gay-friendly programme like Skins will be attacked for referring to a character as a “trannie” (ala Glee last year) or such-like, mark my words! You want PC gone mad? Well that’s a textbook example, Stu…

          2. Glee is fiction set in America … its not real … and English laws do not apply …

            Escalation of number of cases of which law? The English section 5 public order act or the US police attacking kids in their own classrooms with tazers …

            I am very confused by what you are saying, Samuel …

          3. Yes, Stu, but I was making the point that we are not far behind where the US is now with regard to how PC is now being used to turn the most mundane of incidents, such as the Glee/”trannie” episode, into a national outrage, as indeed it became when egged on by the PC-gone-mad loonies at GLAAD.

            That was why I gave the example of how the police in the US are now virtually out of control and now resemble hired thugs; to demonstrate how things that would once be considered unacceptable are made acceptable if ramped up slowly over time as opposed to being immediately implemented.

            Closer attention to the news would make you see that that is the exact direction our police are headed towards here in the UK and elsewhere in the Western world, yet you say I am wrong and inflammatory to point this out when it is a vaid point I am making to show how laws can similarly be subverted and exploited over time to expand their reach into areas and scenarios they were not originally designed to cover.

          4. @Samuel

            With the greatest of respect the methods of policing in the UK are somewhat different to the US

            Equally policing does on occasion require robust action (that is one of the purposes of police) … although fatal force is rarely necessary (in my opinion) and all fatalities in England & wales where there was police contact eg a road traffic accidents, shootings, deaths in custody, deaths where police have recently spoken to or had contact with the deceased etc are low (police will always have some deaths connected to their work, due to the nature of that work) eg in 2010/11 the IPCC reported there were:
            • 26 road traffic fatalities;
            • 2 fatal police shootings;
            • 21 deaths in or following police custody;
            • 46 apparent suicides following release from
            custody; and
            • 52 other deaths following police contact

            Of these cases 5 incidents accounted for 13 fatalities. The number of fatalities is reduced to that experienced in 2005/6 where e.g. there were 5 fatal shootings and 48 ….

          5. … road traffic deaths in a total of 161 deaths where there was simultaneous or recent police contact with the deceased.

            So far from your speculation that police related deaths and violence is on the increase – it may be in the US, but the situation in the UK can be shown to be totally the opposite of what you contend.

            It is difficult to obtain statistics for the USA as to the number of people killed by police due to the manner the statistics are collated. Congress gave a conservative estimate of 220 people in 2006. The most recent accurate figures for just the New York Police Department gave a figure of 13 people shot and killed in 2008. Unverified figures for 2010 suggest 24 people were shot by police in New York in 2010 (the number of fatalities in unclear) Given that the population of England and Wales is approx 52 million and that of the area covered by NYPD is 8.3million – one can see the restraint by UK officers in not resorting to fatal action is evident.

          6. Ultimately, I think the use of force by police in the US is very different and culturally different to that of the UK.

            I am not convinced that there has been any legislation similar to section 5 in the US to repeal or amend that would warrant comparison.

            Thus, linking section 5 being maintained to a likely increase in police fatalities and potential tasering of children in school by police in the UK is (at best) disingenuous …

          7. Stu, you either choose to or deliberately miss the point I am trying to make. You certainly need to be researching more recent statistics than 2006.

            Police are killing bystanders due to little or even no provocation on an almost daily basis now in the US, and such thuggery is now so commonplace it is accepted as normal.

            No, our police are not at that level yet, but 10 years ago you would never have heard of police killing innocent young men on tube trains or newspaper salesmen going about their every day business.

            I understand you have a personal interest in defending the uniformed services, but when blatant police brutality and murder is whitewashed and those responsible are constantly cleared by their own complaints commission, people start to lose patience with apologists like yourself.

            The odd UK police-related death here and there will, within a decade, creep upwards to the level at which the US public is now experiencing.

            You want evidence of this? Watch this space…

          8. Here are US TV reports from the last few days alone. Consider that for each example of police brutality that comes to light, many, many more examples are swept under the carpet:

            Police Brutality: Cops Strip, Beat, Taser & Pepper Spray Man For No Reason :
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuaPxh8y74U&feature=player_embedded

            LA Sheriff Punches Special Needs Woman In The Face On A Bus:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1w_RZ5vnys&feature=player_embedded

            Cop Flips Out When Told He Can’t Search Car Without Warrant:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQUzapAzIac&feature=player_embedded

            Officer beating 66-year-old man suffering from dementia:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FAbUZd3zoM&feature=player_embedded

            Oh, and while you’re at it, check out this link at The Huffington Post (“The YouTube generation has brought a new degree of awareness to the problem of police brutality in America.”)
            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/30/top-5-police-brutality-vi_n_115921.html

          9. @Samuel B

            With respect, its you who “either choose to or deliberately miss the point” that I make …

            (Its a while since I have heard such arrogant comments to ridicule someone in a decent debate – Congratulations!)

            … The experience of the UK is very different to that in the US …

            … There have been shootings of people by police in the England & Wales EVERY year since 1972 …

            The number in 2010/11 was the lowest for a several years …

            So whilst you can bandy round unfortunate events such as de Menezes and Tomlinson as particularly regrettable incidents for which the MPS can be rightly condemned – that does not mean there is any correlation with events in the US

            Indeed official verified statistics from the IPCC and HMIC demonstrate that the number of fatalities involving police have reduced (largely year on year) in England & Wales … which is about as far from the link to an increase as in the US that you seem keen to portray

            I prefer to deal in facts …

          10. @Samuel B

            The fact you have to say “Want evidence of this … watch this space” clearly demonstrates you have no evidence to support the contention of a link that you suggest

            I only defend the good officers in the 999 services (and I have seen plenty of the bad) …

            Where there is reason to condemn … I will be the among the first to raise it or support it … Equally, where flagrant, inaccurate and inflammatory comments are made which bear no resemblence to facts and seek to stoke up antagonism between public servants and those they serve – I will steadfastly defend them with determination to expose unfair and unreasonable commentary … condemn me for that if you wish … but I will stand up for the many who do not do what you allege …

          11. @Samuel B

            I do not dispute any of the TV news bulletins you mention

            I have clearly said in some of my comments that US police use of firearms is much higher than the UK …

            I strongly dispute that deaths by police in the UK are rising – they are falling …

            I strongly dispute there is any correlation between deaths by police in the US and those by police in the UK …

            I fail to see any relevance between deaths by police in the US and section 5 public order act 1986 in England & wales

          12. That is your opinion Stu. It does not make it gospel. You talk as though you are an official authority on this subject, and rubbish my opinions as having no weight or validity.

            OK, so you had a well-thought out article recently published on Pink News. Well done, but don’t let it go to your head and less of the pious sermonising please.

            Thank you.

          13. @Samuel

            It is my opinion and I am entitled to give it as much as you give yours … so less ofsanctimonious defensiveness ….

            My comments to you on this thread bear no relation to my article on PN … they are my opinion on both Peters article and your comments which I believe are wrong, ill thought out, ill informed, ignorant and at times arrogant and petulent …

          14. @Samuel B

            Its also my opinion based on facts gained from official sources that have been independently verified …

            Its also my opinion based on a great deal of experience in emergency situations and understanding that you perception of it is biased, ill informed and wrong …

            Where are you figures to demonstrate that UK deaths at the hands of police are increasing (given that the evidence is the opposite)

            Where can you demonstrate there is an extrapolation of scenarios in the US as being attributable to scenarios in the UK?

            How can you demonstrate a link to section 5?

            If you can not support it with evidence, then a reasonable perspective would be my evidence based opinion holds more weight than your supposition and speculation.

          15. Well, at least show some courtesy and apologise for having the temerity to conclude I must be a Daily Fail reader when it is blatantly obvious you were weaned on The Grauniad!

          16. @Samuel B

            I do not believe I have ever speculated which newspaper you read … so whilst I can not see anything (at all) that I have to apologise to you about, specifically something I have not said is not going to gain an apology to you … Even if I had said it, my opinion is not something I will apologise for …

            As for my newspaper reading, yes the Guardian is one of my newspapers – I read a variety of news sources from across the political spectrum and across the globe …

            I note with utmost disappointment that remain unable or unwilling to respond with any evidence to substantiate the issues you claim or allege …

            I prefer to deal in facts not rabid speculation that you seem to prefer …

          17. Samuel B. 3 Feb 2012, 8:38am

            “I have clearly said in some of my comments that US police use of firearms is much higher than the UK …

            I strongly dispute that deaths by police in the UK are rising – they are falling …”

            “Where are you figures to demonstrate that UK deaths at the hands of police are increasing (given that the evidence is the opposite)

            Where can you demonstrate there is an extrapolation of scenarios in the US as being attributable to scenarios in the UK?”

            I have consistently pointed out that while early signs are already there, we are in the midst of a drip-drip feed of increased police hostility here in the UK just as is occurring in the US, but Stu selectively filters away.

            Let’s see now, the UK police force is now considering arming all police with potentially lethal tasers, now being used in the US willy nilly, and cases of UK police over-reaction and brutality are being reported on a daily basis – ie:- smashing the windscreen of a 70 year old for not wearing a seatbelt (today’s papers)…

          18. No Samuel the UK police is not thinking of deploying tasers to all officers …

            They have extended the use from a very small number of officers (for example originally less than 2% of officers being trained to use them to around 7% of officers in one northern force) …

            But there are no proposals for all officers to have them …

            Leaving that to one side … how would you suggest the police deal with determined violence involving weapons (perhaps where you are threatened) … where determined efforts to calm the situation have failed … Just walk away?

  20. Totally needs to go. People should be able to say what they want and how they wish, and if anyone has an issue with that, then they are welcome to respond to it.

    Too much nanny state about on you cant say that you may offend someone.

    I 100% with Peter, and normally I do not.

  21. The public consultation on the public order act ended on the 13th Jan so I don’t understand the motive behind PT’s comments. If he had something to say then he should have responded like everyone else to the public consultation.

    The only issue that was being consulted about is whether the word “insulting” should be removed.

    One of the key questions was “Do you think there is a clear difference between ‘insulting’ words and behaviour and ‘abusive’ words and behaviour? “. Clearly there is and PT doesn’t address the question that is being asked.

    Another key question in the consultation is whether the statutory defence under 5(3)(c) that the comments or behaviour were reasonable is adequate. This is there to ensure freedom of speech is protected.

    Why doesn’t PT tell us how he replied to the Government public consultation? It’s the public that need to have a say in this not a biased “select committee”!

    1. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 3:04am

      I agree with you to a point. I don’t think the advocates for change have made their case. They completely misrepresent the position; the section outlaws insulting behaviour which is likely to cause alarm or distress. However they always seem to concentrate on insult and forget the important bit! Why in this day and age do we think it’s necessary to cause alarm or distress through the use of insult to make a reasoned argument? However the consultation itself was a little more far reaching than you allow; it also covered powers to require removal of face coverings and powers to impose curfews.

  22. Thanks for the info on Section 5! Englishmen are real hypocrites!

  23. My understanding is that the Home Office is having a consultation but that the broad thought is that either the law is perfectly workable the way it is and that all is required is better guidance. The checks and balances are already in place – all of the so called “bad cases”, in my understanding, did not result in conviction (although I am open to evidence that this is not the case). There is review at police level, CPS level and court and the option to appeal …

    The other thought is that the word insulting would be removed from the act – but this would cause a vast waste of court time in determining what is insulting and what is abusive. You could be guilty if it was abusive – but could you appeal because it was merely insulting?

    By and large, the courts and the police have got this right over the years …

    I do not think it is acceptable to have a society where repeated abuse to a police officer is deemed acceptable … which may be the result of Peters suggest repeal.

  24. Here is some more balance (and lively debate in the commments) on the same issue – although, in this article I take a slightly different approach to Peter …

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/12/20/comment-should-the-law-protect-us-from-insults/

  25. GingerlyColors 18 Jan 2012, 2:28am

    Watching fly-on-the-wall documentaries about the police, Section Five of the Public Order Act is often used against foul-mouthed drunks. According to Peter Tatchell Section 5 is a wide-ranging act that seems to curb free-speech and needs changing. To nick someone for calling a police horse gay is ludicrous. Some horses are gay. The police need to use more discretion when invoking Section 5. Usually when the case goes to court it is dealt by a Magistrate and not by a jury as it would be in a Crown Court. A jury will be in a better position to decide whether or not theline has been crossed from free speech to hate speech.

    1. I used plenty of discretion when I was a police officer and had a high tolerance threshhold for section 5 … nonetheless, I did use the power of arrest reasonable often …

      Prior to court it is tested by the individual officer, their supervision, the CPS and out of court correspondence between the defendents solicitors and the CPS … the court is a further benchmark of scrutiny …

      Section 5 is mostly used for foul mouthed abuse in public that continues despite usually a number of warnings by police….

    2. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 3:31am

      Section 5 cases are always dealt with in the Magistrates Court. IT is a purely summary offence. However article 10 imposes a duty on the court to consider whether prosecution impinges upon the Defendants freedom of expression. It is a decision which a District Judge is entitled to make.

  26. essexgirlbecky 18 Jan 2012, 2:33am

    I see Peter is borrowing the rhetoric of Edward Leigh MP in his speech in the Commons on 1 March 2011; “I believe that removing the word “insulting” would be enough to stop section 5 being misused and generating a chilling effect on free speech.” Of course it wasn’t new then either; James Welch of Liberty said the same thing to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2008.

    The argument for change is based on less than ten prosecutions, most of which never went to court, and which reflect bad judgement on the part of the police rather than any problem with the legislation. Ten cases in 25 years hardly is hardly credible evidence of a “chilling effect” on the freedom of expression.

    Peter clearly forgets that were it not for the word “insulting”, neither the poppy burning nor the gay free zone stickers could have been prosecuted, not forgetting BNP member Mark Norwood either. We don’t need the law changed, just occasionally better decision making would not go amiss.

  27. Who is it that PT wants to insult and on what subject?

    What opinions does he have that s5 has prevented him from expressing during the last 30 years?

    He’s talking nonsense. Not for the first time.

  28. If religious fundies are to be alllowed to say whatever they like with no consequence, then I expect the right to organise a bible, torah and koran burning night in Leicester Square (with full police protection).

  29. It seems clear from the majority of comments on here that those of us who identify as LGBT are happy with the provision of section 5 of the public order act.
    Peter, Pinknews have afforded you a platform for campaigning and you are held in estem as a campaigner for our rights but on this you seem to be at odds with what we want.
    The use of the law by some police officers may not be appropriate but there are plenty of safety nets such as the courts and CPS to ensure that it is administered in a just and fair manner. Without the ability to act our police will again have their hands tied whilst we try to go about our everyday lives being humiliated by bigoted thugs whose words are just the beginning to a much more sinister agenda for what they would wish to do to us.
    Please listen to what we are saying and recognise or fears and remember were those fears originated from.

  30. Peter you are wrong and this law should not be repealed, it is there to protect us and should stay there! Freedom of speech is all well and good until someone uses it to make others feel worthless and threatened.

  31. Peter Tatchell 18 Jan 2012, 9:25pm

    Section 5 was used by the police 18,249 times in 2009. Less than one in six of these offences had a religious or racial element, the majority were for the non-specified crime of insult. Not just me, but Index on Censorship, Liberty and Justice either want it repealed or reformed.

    1. Racially, religiously or other forms of aggravation are separate offences …

      Why would you feel section 5 should only be used for aggravated offences … thats a bizarre argument … perhaps you can explain what you mean …

      I am all for human rights, but Peter just because you agree with Liberty, Justice and Index on Censorship does not make you all right on this specific issue … and I believe society will be damaged if this law is repealed or altered (depending on how it is altered, but the manner of changed discussed in the public arena to date is unlikely to benefit anyone).

      It seems you are prepared to tolerate and encourage anti social behaviour …

      Shame on You

    2. essexgirlbecky 19 Jan 2012, 2:09am

      You are telling us that the police used section 5 over 18,000 times, but that in reality about 3,000 cases were actually covered by section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act because they were racially or religiously motivated leaving just over 15,000 genuine section 5 cases. However as we know, section 5 covers not just ‘insulting’ but ‘threatening’ and ‘abusive’ words and behaviour and also disorderly conduct. So assuming your statistics are correct, how many of those 15,000 cases involved threatening or abusive words and behaviour or disorderly conduct? Answer; nobody knows because those figures are not broken down in the crime statistics. But the bottom line Peter is really this; do you seriously believe that people should be allowed to put signs up telling us where we can and can’t walk? Because that’s what this boils down to in the end.

      1. Absolutely Becky

        Peter is using statistics that do not tell the story he is trying to say they do …

        That is underhand and devious and worrying from someone who usually operates honestly and fairly …

  32. The trouble with any legislation like this is that no matter what the intention of the law or how finely worded it is, it is still dependent on the flaws in human beings as to how it is used. I don’t instinctively like these laws because they are so vague and loosely interpreative and they depend on the whims and prejudices of individual police officers magistrates judges and juries as to how effective or who will be targeted by them.

  33. Tatchell omits to mention that after being arrested Dale McAlpine was awarded £7000 in damages. I’d happily be falsely arrested if I thought I was going to get 7 grand out of it!

  34. I hope Peter Tatchell’s comments don’t adversely affect the outcome of the trial now taking place in Derby – http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/01/19/jury-to-deliberate-on-anti-gay-leaflets/

    1. Section 5 is not being used in that trial

      I do think that Peter is (at best) being economical with the truth in how he portrays this matter ..

  35. j c gallimore 25 Jan 2012, 12:45am

    yes likly needs a repeal, I you sed this law sec 5 to have sir icbal sackerine arested by staffordshire police becuse of is two page press article calling for the death of homosexuals.he then got the push from the brit- muslum council

  36. Stuart Parsons 7 Oct 2012, 12:18pm

    I have spent 5 years studying the beliefs, practices and aims of Islam and am utterly appalled by what I have learned. I wish to challenge the beliefs, practices and aims of Islam. I harbour no hatred of Muslims, they are in my view the victims of the delusional Muhammad and 1400 years of clerical mendacity. The Police and Crown Prosecution Service have charged me under Section 5 The Public Order Act, not because a handful of people were upset, but because it is politically incorrect in the prevailing climate to speak out against Islam. I am being deprived of my free speech rights under Article 10 for politically correct motives.

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