Plans to criminalise private conversations in the home in England and Wales have been abandoned by the Law Commission.
After “serious concerns” were raised in a public consultation over their proposal to prosecute people for so-called “hate speech” in private dwellings, the Commission has decided to ditch the idea.
There is currently a ‘dwelling defence’ in law which protects conversations in the home from police intervention. The Law Commission, which advises the Government, will no longer recommend this should change.
The proposal to remove the ‘dwelling defence’ caused some to fear that it would target discussion on controversial issues such as same-sex marriage and radical transgender ideology.
But in a letter seen by The Telegraph newspaper, Commission Chairman Lord Justice Green sought to ‘alleviate the fears’ raised by Lords Pearson and Vinson on the matter.
Lord Green said the Commission was now looking at “alternative ways” of reforming the law, to ensure that any changes were “compatible with both the right to freedom of expression and respect for one’s home and private and family life”.
The Commission received approximately 2,500 responses to its ‘Hate crime laws’ consultation and is due to submit its recommended changes to Ministers later this year.
The Scottish Government’s hate crime Bill, currently being considered by Holyrood, leaves out the dwelling defence currently included in legislation in England and Wales.
An amendment to include one was recently voted down by a committee of MSPs.
Jim Sillars, a former Deputy Leader of the SNP, has warned that as proposed, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill will ‘restrict the boundaries of free speech’.
He said: “That its ministerial author should even contemplate that the law should monitor our private conversations in our homes shows how dangerously far the boundaries could shrink.”