‘Insult’ law must be reformed, says Peter Hitchens

Prominent commentator Peter Hitchens says that a law that criminalises ‘insults’ needs to be reformed.

Mr Hitchens called Section 5 of the Public Order Act “a sloppily drafted and silly piece of work originally aimed at football hooligans” in his blog for the Daily Mail Online.

He referred to the case of Harry Hammond, an elderly street preacher who was arrested under Section 5 for holding a placard that included the words ‘Stop Homosexuality.’


Mr Hammond was pelted with dirt and abused by passers-by who were not arrested.

A campaign to strip “insulting” from Section 5 of the Public Order Act was launched in May.

If the word ‘insulting’ is removed from Section 5, the same law would continue to criminalise “threatening” and “abusive” words or behaviour.


A spokeman for the Christian Institute said “Section 5 is dangerously broad and especially in today’s politically correct climate, is in desperate need of reform.”

Last month Daily Telegraph commentator Christine Odone praised the work of the Reform Section 5 campaign.

She said: “Thank goodness, an unlikely alliance of David Davis MP, Peter Tatchell and The Christian Institute are campaigning to change Section 5.”

And she was joined by Guardian columnist Timothy Garton Ash who noted that fixing the problem of Section 5 was “not a party-political issue” but rather: “It is about freedom. And it is about what it means to be British.”

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