MPs and Peers say Government should get rid of ‘insult’ law

The Government should reform a controversial law which criminalises “insulting” words or behaviour, an influential group of MPs and Peers says.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights called for the word “insulting” to be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

They said the law has a “disproportionate impact on freedom of expression”.


Section 5 has been used to arrest Christian preachers, a student who called a horse “gay”, and a critic of Scientology.

Home Secretary Theresa May began a consultation on getting rid of the offence last year, but the results have not yet been published.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is made up of MPs and Peers, was looking into the Crime and Courts Bill.


Their report said: “We understand the sensitivities with certain communities on this issue, but nonetheless we support an amendment to the Bill which reduces the scope of s. 5 Public Order Act 1986 on the basis that criminalising insulting words or behaviour constitutes a disproportionate interference with freedom of expression.”

It also referred to the fact they have previously called for the word “insulting” to be removed.

The House of Lords is likely to debate amending Section 5 of the Public Order Act in the next couple of weeks.


Campaign group Reform Section 5, which is supported by The Christian Institute and the National Secular Society, is urging the Government to change the law.

In October, comedian Rowan Atkinson spoke at a parliamentary reception to raise awareness of the campaign.

He warned that criticism, unfavourable comparison or “merely stating an alternative point of view” could be interpreted as an insult and lead to arrest.

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