Co-belligerent Secularists and Christians force government to reform Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act

An unlikely coalition of Christians and Secularists joining together in a rare act of unity has forced the government to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to give more protection to free speech.

Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act says a person is guilty of an offence if:

(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.

It was the word “Insulting” that caused the consternation, confusion and subsequent abuse of the Public Order Act. It’s a very vague and subjective term that allowed too much discretion in application.

This Act had been used against Christians on quite a few occasions, most notably in the case of Jamie Murray, owner of the Salt & Light Coffee House.

This was a truly bizarre incident in which the displaying of Scripture on a video screen prompted a police visit following a complaint. The police notified Murray that he was displaying offensive or insulting words which breached Section 5 of the Public Order Act; in other words, the Biblical texts contravened the act.

The Christian Institute have been long campaigning for the removal of the word ”insulting” from the act, together with the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and others.

website and Twitter account were set up.

Today the Christian Institute are declaring “Victory”:

The Government gave way tonight, and agreed to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to give more protection to free speech.

Campaign group Reform Section 5 (RS5) has been pushing for the change, which has seen many controversial arrests.

Today, in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May said the word ‘insulting’ would be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act, as part of the Crime and Courts Bill.

The amendment to the law was put forward by Lord Dear, a former HM Inspector of Constabulary, and when discussed in the House of Lords, peers voted by 150 to 54 in favour of the change.

The Government today announced that it would not overturn the amendment but will allow it to become law.

This is very good news for freedom of speech in this country.

Tags: , , ,

3 Responses to “Co-belligerent Secularists and Christians force government to reform Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act”

  1. Gordon Says:

    Not much of a victory as there didn’t seem to be anybody, anywhere who supported the law as it stood.

  2. Goy Says:

    In hoc signo vinces†

    A hollow victory … suppose it is better than nothing.

    Still would not recommend rushing out sporting an IDF hoodie particularly on the streets of Scotland. :-)

  3. Goy Says:

    In hoc signo vinces†

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

    Would YOU defend this man’s right to freedom of speech?

    A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: “a 43 year old was arrested on Saturday morning on suspicion of ‘Display threatening abusive/insulting written material with intent/likely to stir up racial hatred’.”

    Joint leader of English Defence League Kevin Carroll arrested on suspicion of race hate crime

Switch to our mobile site