Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
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Wednesday, 6 January 2016
BEING OFFENSIVE IS NOT ILLEGAL
The opening paragraph of Section 5 of the Public Order Act as written in Crown Prosecution Service guidelines is as above. The change was long overdue. The original inclusion of "insulting" was an awful miscalculation if one takes a benevolent view of government or a further attempt to erode free expression if one is of a cynical disposition. There is not a Justice of the Peace in this country who has not racked his/her conscience on S.5 matters brought before them prior to the amendment. I personally argued against conviction on many such cases in defiance of legal advisors who were too timid to make a legal case against the letter of the law. I suppose it all goes down to whether in extremis one fights for the letter of the law or its spirit. I suppose I am a spirit man.
However it was under section 127(1)(a) and section 127(1)(b) of the Communications Act 2003 that on Monday at Belfast Magistrates` Court a Protestant evangelical preacher was tried before a District Judge for words uttered to a congregation in May 2014. The actual sermon can be accessed here on youtube. There are subtle differences in the media reports of his acquittal. The Irish Times gives reference to some of the actual remarks made; the BBC does not. The Belfast Telegraph makes great reference to freedom of speech but also without quoting any actual words of the accused.
There is no doubt in my very humble atheistic opinion that the spokesmen of supposed representative Muslim organisations in response to recent current events are somewhat circumspect in their remarks rarely making their arguments without reference to their perceived view of their being victims of islamophobia. This is in contrast to much of what is said and published by the Quilliam Foundation. Perhaps living as a minority in a country with Judeo Christian foundations which is relatively unusual for a large Muslim population is proving difficult for some followers of the Prophet. It can only be hoped that the next generation will be able to practise their faith but also be able to adapt to what has taken a thousand years for the concept of Britishness to develop from Ancient Britons, Picts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Normans, Huguenots, Irish, Jews and laterally millions of incomers from Asia, Africa and Europe.
UK Criminal Law Blog has a useful legal analysis