Hello there, stupid. Concord called – it would like its nose back please.
Feeling a little insulted? Perhaps and if you are, allow me to apologise – I am usually an exceptionally polite officer.
Were I not to be so polite though, should I be thrown in the gaol for causing insult? Should it say as much in the law and if it did, should we officers be running around arresting people who speak ahead of thinking?
Many people think not, notably the Reform Section 5 campaign who have been arguing that the inclusion of the word ‘insulting’ in the definition of a Section 5 Public Order Offence isn’t in the spirit of free speech.
Recently joining the voices of those who don’t think that the law should be dealing with insults is the Home Secretary, Teresa May, and as voices go, hers is one that tends to indicate that things are going to change.
I’ve looked at Public Order Offences on this blog before, working through Sections 5 to 1 and explaining a little about how the offences get more severe as you progress towards riot – Section 1 of the 1986 Public Order Act.
Section 5 currently makes it a crime to use ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour’ with the intention of causing ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
It’s this law that was used to arrest a student who asked a mounted officer if his horse was ‘gay’ and one that hasn’t always sat well with those protective of free speech, causing concern that the ability to arrest someone for causing insult is a restriction on freedom of expression.
As a rozzer, I don’t see that dropping the word from the definition hurts our ability to deal with people who need to be dealt with and I think indicates what the Government and public would prefer that we concentrate on – not arresting people for causing insult but rather helping people who have fallen victim to serious crimes and need our help.
We retain the capability to tackle threats and abuse hurled at people (including ourselves), we appear to lose only an ability to arrest over allegations of insult in which it’s not really appropriate we be involved in the first place.