Strange Alliance in UK Says “Feel Free to Insult Me”

A strange alliance between gay activists, secularists, evangelicals, Tories and Liberal Democrats is demanding the freedom to insult and be insulted.

A campaign is underway to reform the Public Order Act, to remove a provision, section 5, which makes it an offense if someone:

(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.

Those campaigning against the provision say:

Section 5 is the legal embodiment of a well-meaning bureaucrat, and at worse it is used as a way of silencing those who the authorities don’t agree with — be they religious preachers, political activists or protesters.

Well-known gay activist Peter Tatchell relates a litany of cases where the section has been used to shut down free speech or mockery or ridicule or dissenting opinion.

When he protested against the Islamist fundamentalist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, in 1994, it was his group’s protest signs deemed “offensive”.

Others arrested under section 5 have included:

A man holding a sign outside Scientology’s London headquarters calling the movement a “cult.”

A Christian street preacher calling homosexuality a “sin.”

An Oxford student who said a police horse was “gay.”

A man who directed what was described as a ‘daft little growl’ and a ‘woof’ aimed at two Labrador dogs. He was fined despite the dog owner’s protests.

Anti-seal culling protesters for displaying toy seals colored with red food dye, which ‘distressed’ two passers-by.

Conservative MP David Davis, who jointly launched the campaign against section 5 with Tatchell, says that the previous issuance of guidance to police on section 5 isn’t working and the word ‘insulting’ should be removed. He says:

This would provide proportionate protection to individuals’ right to free speech, whilst continuing to protect people from threatening or abusive speech.

By including the word ‘insulting’ in the legislation we have effectively created a new right to not be offended and risked silencing legitimate campaigners, protestors and activists – but done nothing extra to protect people from unacceptable behaviour.

The British government has consulted on changes to the Public Order Act but hasn’t given an opinion on section 5 yet.

You can get involved with the campaign here.

Related stories:

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England’s Riots Caused By Anger with Police (Video)

Picture by Kill Pop

35 comments

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

UK have many strange laws. Like one, which I can't remember the name of right now, that prohibits the media to publish any information about politicians, be it what they ate at breakfast or how often they use the bathroom. Because of this, the British media instead focus on gossip about celebs and raid trash cans at famous people's homes to dig up some juicy stuff. No pun intended.

Berny P.
Berny p.4 years ago

If you express a genuine concern her in England you must choose your words very wisely, you will be falsely acused of being racist etc.

Some subjects can not be talked about openly even if it does afffect your work, health, housing public services etc etc.

We are learning to stay stum and look after number one, This is England now...unless we tell all the politicly correct morons that we have had enough!!!!

Pamela T.
Pamela Tracy4 years ago

The Brits do have a habit of serious insults ..... so might as well make it legal and let all the insults float into hot air and forget it..........

Susan Oliver
Susan Cytko4 years ago

its a mad mad mad world.

Martin L.
Martin L.4 years ago

The last two paragraphs from my previous comment have duplicated. Oh well! you could say I am trying to "drive my point home".

Martin L.
Martin L.4 years ago

From the above:
Those campaigning against the provision say:

Section 5 is the legal embodiment of a well-meaning bureaucrat, and at worse it is used as a way of silencing those who the authorities don’t agree with — be they religious preachers, political activists or protesters.


You know when “Speaking Out” creates a stir among Law Makers and the Political Elite, when they make plans to bring out draconian legislation such as this to curtail an individuals right to freedoms of speech and legitimate protest.

I wonder how soon before Law Makers refuse the individuals right to vote if they are seen as a dissenting voice against the established order (New World Order).

I guess by then however, it will be a pointless exercise as all the political elite will follow the same Fascist policies and show a complete disregard for an individuals rights.

Each day I see more and more so-called Democracies showing their true Fascist faces. The time has never been more right for all of us to stand up for our rights, because to do nothing today will mean no freedoms for future generations.

I guess by then however, it will be a pointless exercise as all the political elite will follow the same Fascist policies and show a complete disregard for an individuals rights.

Each day I see more and more so-called Democracies showing their true Fascist faces. The time has never been more right for all of us to stand up for our rights, because to do nothing toda

Alan M.
Past Member 4 years ago

If you express a genuine concern her in England you must choose your words very wisely, you will be falsely acused of being racist etc.
Some subjects can not be talked about openly even if it does efect your work, health, housing public services etc etc.
We are learning to stay stum and look after number one, This is England

Ness Watson
Kezia W.4 years ago

Welcome to the UK!

patrica and edw jones

The Public Order Act introduced in 1986 - put the powers of riot and violent disorder on a statutory basis. Police also have the right to use water cannon, plastic bullets and CS gas - should they be needed....and they should have used them during the riots. The issue is not one of legality but capacity. David Cameron's plan to make deep cuts into the Police force across the UK is politically very risky. Seems Cameron prefers to blame the Police for making wrong operational decisions....now isn't that just typical of Politicians - just no backbone - only buck passing.

Paul canning
Paul canning4 years ago

@Matthew R.

It's nothing to do with the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

The law came in in 1986 - under Margaret Thatcher!