Background to what ReformSection5 is about, with the Rowan Atkinson video describing why reform is necessary, can be found here.
The House of Lords supported the amendment to remove the word “insulting” from section 5 of the Public Order Act. The issue though is whether the House of Commons will be moved to back such a change (main party leaderships oppose), let alone the government make time to debate.
The fact that people have been arrested, or threatened with arrest, even brought to court under this section of the Act, without sentence is not a sign of a law working well.
An example being the arrest of someone that had a sign saying religion was a collection of fairy tales, on display in their window. Or the person displaying bible scriptures on their premises. All because someone may have felt insulted.
Lord Dear (above) Amendment 119 would instead allow section 5 to deal with abusive harassment instead. However, as he mentioned in the debate the government is not eager to get involved:
At Second Reading of the Protection of Freedoms Bill in November 2011, and again on the fourth day of the debate on the Queen’s Speech in May this year, I declared that, but for the consultation period, I would have tabled an amendment to delete “insulting” from Section 5. In winding-up that latter debate, the Minister asked for patience. On 4 July this year, when the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, raised the issue again, the Minister again requested that we remain patient. Still there is silence. It is now over 14 months since the consultation was launched, over 10 months since it closed and over five months since the Minister asked for a little more time to consider the matter. What is going on? Is it procrastination, prevarication or bureaucratic incompetence? I do not know but, whatever the answer, I suggest very strongly that we should not and cannot wait any longer.
Lord Taylor speaking on behalf of the government against the amendment:
However, the Government recognise the strong arguments on both sides of this issue. Some feel that the “insulting” limb of Section 5 has a chilling effect on freedom of expression-we have heard speeches to that effect-and a disproportionate impact in relation to religious groups who practise their religion by preaching in public. It has further been argued that insults should not be a criminal matter and it is not for the police and the courts to decide what constitutes an insult.
We have considered this matter at great length-for too long, as the noble Baroness has suggested-and we have reached the firm view that Section 5 should not be reformed. There is insufficient evidence that the removal of the word “insulting” would be beneficial overall. I regret that this decision will not be welcomed by everyone, but I assure the House that it has been given careful consideration. I regret to say that should the noble Lord, Lord Dear, seek to test the opinion of the House, I will urge noble Lords-
Time to put pressure on your member of parliament to support reform of section 5.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog