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Coming to the UK soon. The right to call a Horse gay

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posted on Jan, 15 2013 @ 12:18 PM

'Insulting' words crime which made it illegal to call a police horse 'gay' is to be changed

This popped up in my daily news trawl this morning so I thought I would share.

Home secretary Theresa May said the Government will accept a House of Lords amendment to remove the word 'insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
The amendment had been promoted in the House of Lords by Lord Dear, a former HM Inspector of Constabulary.
Six years ago police tried to prosecute Oxford student Sam Brown after he said to a mounted officer: “Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?"

This story stems from a section of the UK Public order act specifically section 5 which states

The offence is created by section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986:
"(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby."

So apparently up till this point in the UK I was libel to arrest for verbally insulting a person, or even an animal and the only criteria for deciding what is insulting is whether someone that may overhear you feels offended..

The following year Kyle Little, a 16-year-old from Newcastle, was fined £50 with £150 costs for saying “woof” to a Labrador dog in front of police officers.

It doesn't seem clear in this case which part of saying "woof" to a dog is insulting, or if the dog even complained that he felt insulted. I am going to have to assume that the actual insult was caused to people around the dog that were upset by overhearing such a terrible thing.

So now the law is to be changed by dropping clause that specifies 'Insulting language' but the rest of the law will remain. We in the UK are now free to insult eachother as much as we wish without fear of prison (although it should be noted that the part of the clause that prohibits 'Abusive' language will stay)

So what do my fellow ATSers think. Is insulting someone that has annoyed you a right? Should we be free to tell someone to go to hell or to tell a Goose to get lost? Or is there anyone out there that feels that this law should have remained in it's current form and we should have our use of language policed for politeness?

My feeling is that even the new altered law is still over the line as far as free speech is concerned and that the clause for "abusive language" is still way too open for interpretation and being used for stupid frivolous arrests like the ones above.

posted on Jan, 15 2013 @ 12:29 PM
I don't know which is worse.... The fact they actually passed something outlawing saying this about a horse? ..or that there is enough concern about it actually being enforced that it's worth the wasted time, effort and money to reopen the issue and repeal it?

Wow... I didn't realize the UK was so slow on important matters to attend to. I'm at least comforted to see that Stupid on Steroids isn't something unique to Uncle Sam and his romper room of children.

posted on Jan, 15 2013 @ 12:40 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

It does seem that the law was indeed being enforced and used to arrest people such as protesters. One of the only reasons that it has been reviewed now is that some celebrities. including Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) have got behind the campaign to repeal it.

Rowan gives a great speech below where he compares the right of free speech to the right to have a home or the right to eat food and highlights some other case such as a person who was arrested for calling Scientology a cult.

He also speaks against a "Creeping culture of censoriousness"

posted on Jan, 15 2013 @ 12:51 PM
reply to post by davespanners

I have to say, I didn't realize the place of Mr Bean in English culture until the Olympics. Now I realize that reference carries importance. I have to agree with him too...this is a slippery slope coated in grease and spiked poles to greet the falling freedoms at the bottom.

To answer more directly the question your OP poses? I think insulting other people is crass and generally low class. It shouldn't be 'allowed' in society ...but outlawed? Well, now that's a whole different planet of logic and impact eh? I'd say where Society encouraging it's own to show common decency and over-reach by legal approach is a pretty clear line really...and this stomped right on across it.


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