Most MPs support change to 'insult' law

Published 02 January 2013
PA

A majority of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats support a proposed change to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.

Section 5 makes it illegal to use "threatening, abusive or insulting" words or behaviour if they are likely to cause "harassment, alarm or distress".

Arrests have been made of individuals expressing views on religion and sexuality on the grounds of breaching Section 5.

Section 5 has been used against a student who jokingly told a police officer his horse was 'gay', a teenager carrying a sign which read 'Scientology is a dangerous cult', and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell for holding a placard denouncing Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Lord Dear's proposal would remove the term 'insulting' from Section 5.

A new poll by ComRes has found that a majority of Tory and Lib Dem MPs - 79% and 70% respectively - are set to support the move.
Support among Labour MPs is at 31 per cent.

The survey of 154 MPs follows last month's Government defeat in the House of Lords. The amendment to remove 'insults' was carried by 150 votes to 54 and has now been incorporated into Clause 38 of the Crime and Courts Bill, which is due to go before the House of Commons on 14 January.

The Campaign to Reform Section 5 (RS5) is supported by the Christian Institute and the National Secular Society.

Simon Calvert, RS5 Campaign Director said the law as it currently stands "criminalises free speech".

He said: "A majority of parliamentarians from both the Lords and the Commons recognise that this legislation should be reformed.

"It's about time the Government recognised that dropping the word 'insulting' from the law will stop innocent people being from being arrested and hauled before the Courts without harming the ability of police and prosecutors to protect the public.

"The move is sensible, popular, and they should get on with it."

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