Victory! Public order law reformed for free speech
Mon, 14 Jan 2013
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.
Reform Section 5 campaign director Simon Calvert said he was “very pleased” by the Government’s statement.
He said: “This is a victory for free speech. People of all shades of opinion have suffered at the hands of Section 5. By accepting the Lords amendment to reform it the Government has managed to please the widest possible cross-section of society. They have done the right thing and we congratulate them.”
RS5 is backed by The Christian Institute, National Secular Society, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
The campaign to removing the word ‘insulting’ from the law has gained support from comedian Rowan Atkinson who warned that merely stating a different point of view could lead to an arrest unless the law was changed.
A ComRes poll commissioned last year by the RS5 campaign showed that 62 per cent of MPs believed it should not be the business of government to outlaw “insults.”