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
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
This story stems from a section of the UK Public order act
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
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.