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19 Nov, 2012 11:35

Sticks and stones! Push to reform notorious UK ‘insult’ law gains momentum

The British government’s increasingly obstinate stance on criminalizing insults seems to have finally offended the public. Now an official movement, the Reform Section 5 campaign, is drawing support from all levels of society.

Recent headlines have seen a surge in support for the Reform Section 5 campaign.The arrest of Kyle Little for a “daft little growl” and a “woof” aimed at two Labrador dogs, or the case where an Oxford student was arrested for saying to a policeman: “Excuse me, do you realize your horse is gay?”

In another case, a cafe owner was arrested for displaying biblical passages on a TV screen.The list of baffling arrests and charges goes on.TV commentator Ron Liddle told RT there’s a lot of legislation that was introduced without people being aware.“There’s a whole raft of legislation that stops you saying what you believe in – we don’t have freedom of speech anymore.”Prominent people have been publicly backing the campaign, which kicked off in earnest in mid-October, including many MPs.Nigel Farage MEP, leader of the United Kingdom Independent Party, was quoted on Reform Section 5’s website:“In a robust democracy people must be free to insult and be insulted. We have laws that protect against incitement to violence and hatred, which should be enough. To protect my feelings from those who wish to laugh at me or hold me in contempt is a freedom I never wanted, nor hoped for,” he said.

Famous British comedian and actor Rowan Atkinson recently came out in support of the campaign, something that generated over 140,000 views on YouTube.He admitted being astounded that a supporter of Section 5 believed that the recent surge in cases subsequently being dropped showed the law was working, before adding, “What about the thousands of cases that did not enjoy the oxygen of publicity, that weren’t quite ludicrous enough to attract media attention. Even for the actions that were withdrawn, people were arrested, questioned, taken to court and then released. You know, that isn’t a law working properly.”Liddle’s assessment of the law was more damning.“What this law has been used for is firstly to stifle inconvenient political views – so views which are against Islam, views which are against Christianity, views which are against the equality of homosexuals. So people who say that sort of thing can be arrested. The second way is police who use it as a catchall – to arrest you if everything else fails.”Analysts agree it’s a timely reminder that political correctness-gone-mad and further curbing of freedom of speech in the UK is not going unnoticed.The slew of bizarre new cases comes as the majority of Britons believe in having the right to say what they think in public.

According to a survey commissioned by the Free Speech Network, over 91 per cent of respondents wanted the right to say or write what they wanted in a public debate.The United Kingdom is no stranger to being labeled a “police state”. It has over 4 million surveillance cameras. That’s roughly one for every 14 people.The city of Birmingham once introduced loudspeakers adjacent to CCTV cameras. When an alleged “crime” was being committed an officer on duty would then repeatedly tell the offender off for engaging in wrongdoing.The survey also shows that public opinion overwhelmingly supports no further regulation of mass media.

People believe the government should focus on more serious issues like fixing the economy.The most alarming statistic, however, was that 58.6 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds were proud of the UK’s free speech track record.The Public Order Act 1986 is an act listing various forms of public order offenses in the UK. Its Sections 4a and 5 have regularly been in the spotlight for their broad understanding of whom and how a person was harassed, alarmed or distressed.Section 5 reads:A person is guilty of an offence if he— [a] uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior, or disorderly behavior, 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.