The Telegraph reports:
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.
Excellent. It should not be a crime to be insulting.
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?”
Mr Brown, who made the comment during a night out with friends in Oxford after his final exams, was arrested under section 5 of the Public Order Act for making homophobic remarks.
The horse should have been forced to testify on whether he felt victimised.
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.
If a bad law is there, the Police will often use it. We should get rid of blasphemous libel, for example, as a crime. That at least needs the AG’s permission for a prosecution.
The amendment had been pushed for by comedian Rowan Atkinson who had warned that criticism, unfavourable comparison or “merely stating an alternative point of view” could be interpreted as an insult and lead to arrest.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph last month, Lord Dear, said that the law had “no place in our country” because the law was being “used to undermine free speech because of the way it is framed”.
Last month House of Lords vote saw peers vote overwhelmingly by 150 to 54 in favour of the change. Campaigners welcomed the change. Simon Calvert, Reform Section 5 campaign director, said he was “very pleased” by the Government’s statement.
He said: “This is a victory for free speech. People of all shades of opinion have suffered at the hands of Section 5.
A victory for comedians and free speech.