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Saturday 19 May 2012

Reform Section 5 Campaign

After many years of increasing restrictions having been placed upon freedom of thought and expression in the UK, it seems that at long last there are perhaps some indications that not only the public, but that also some prominent figures in the political and media worlds, are beginning to rail against this anti-rational stifling orthodoxy. It may be overly optimistic to state this, but there does seem to be a mood of change in the air with respect to these matters, which holds out hope for the overdue return of our right to think, write and debate unhindered by politically correct diktat.  

The recent disturbing Rochdale paedophile grooming case, in which nine men from a Pakistani Muslim background were sentenced for the systematic abuse of indigenous English girls, appears to have forced some individuals to wake up to reality, and to acknowledge that there is a genuine problem pertaining to this type of crime within this particular subset of the population. That it has hitherto been ignored because of fears relating to accusations of ‘racism’ or its so-called ‘institutional’ variant, demonstrates amply just how corrosive this enforced system of putatively ‘anti-racist’ thought and legislation has become. To have turned a blind eye to such crimes, for there have been many others of this type, is rather worse than negligent. At a bare minimum, the victims of these sadistic sexual assaults deserve to see the law changed, so that never again will concerns relating to the ostensible sensitivities of certain minorities permit crimes to go uninvestigated. It is time to show the concept of ‘institutional racism’ the red card, and to allow the forces of law and order to go about their daily work unconstrained by ideology.

Against this backdrop, it was encouraging to see a new campaign emerge this week aimed at reforming Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act. Moreover, it made a refreshing change to see a number of unnatural bedfellows combining to demand that this restriction upon free speech be ditched, for it cannot be said that The National Secular Society (NSS) and The Christian Institute are natural allies. Alongside them are ranged Conservative MP David Davis, Big Brother Watch, The Freedom Association and The Peter Tatchell Foundation. Little of course unites this disparate range of individuals and organisations, but it is heartening to see such a widespread support for free speech. The question is though, will Home Secretary Theresa May listen?

The offending element, if I may be forgiven the pun, of Section 5 outlaws “insulting words or behaviour”, the snag being of course that this is such a nebulous concept that it is wide open to abuse, and abused it has been, and very badly at that. For example, the NSS reports that ‘In 2008 a sixteen-year-old boy was arrested for peacefully holding a placard that read “Scientology is a dangerous cult”.’ David Davis has cited the example of an Oxford student arrested in 2005 for saying to a policeman “Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?” Peter Tatchell was arrested too whilst campaigning against Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir for holding a placard reading ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir = clerical fascism’ which police deemed to be “insulting”. Evidently, the police on this occasion displayed more sensitivity towards a group that calls for the killing of ‘unchaste women’, Jews and homosexuals than for somebody highlighting the obscenity of this stance. Whilst not agreeing with Tatchell on a number of issues, he has made the right choice here. All of these cases highlight the absurdity and danger of Section 5 in its current form.

Insults should not be criminalized, and what is acceptable or even positive to one person is unacceptable and anathema to another. Section 5 must be reformed so that its stifling impact upon free speech is removed. I wish the campaigners well. Its site can be accessed here. David Davis gives his thoughts on Section 5 in the video below.

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