This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comment

← Sharia Law: neither equal nor free

Shrinking_Dogma's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by Shrinking_Dogma

          [Comment 12](/articles/646073-sharia-law-neither-equal-nor-free/comments?page=1#comment_944603) by  [Tony d](/profiles/172720)          :


                 @Comment 8 by Shrinking_Dogma> The is no crime of causing offence. There is a crime of causing harassment alarm or distress in certain circumstances, or behaving in certain ways within earshot of someone likely to be caused harassment alarm or distress. It is well established that this means genuine harassment alarm or distress - not merely feeling offended or uncomfortable.> That sounds fine and great but what happens if some religious type becomes alarmed and distressed by my disbelief in their religion.With Laws like this freedom of speech is gone already.

Well in order to make out the offence the prosecution would have to prove you were using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour. If you were using what most would consider to be legitimate free speech the I would imagine the prosecution would be unable to prove threats or abuse. Insult is a trickier one and could cover some ad hominem language. But in addition it would have to be objectively insulting, not in the view of the audience but the Court. In addition the Crown would have to prove that you intended the insult or that you knew you were insulting someone.

And then there are defences - that you had no reason to believe someone would be caused harassment alarm or distress, or that your behaviour was reasonable. On the latter point free speech would have to be given some weight by the court.

So again, boils down to situation. If you are exercising free speech by knowingly hurling ad hom attacks of an objectively insulting nature on some poor cloistered soul who you have reason to believe might be genuinely harassed rather than a bit miffed, in a situation where you can't show your behaviour to be reasonable (because they are on public transport and can't get away), yep, you could be guilty. If you are offering calm protest or argument to a bunch of reasonably robust people who aren't trapped and you aren't pursuing I think they'd have difficulties.

Mind you I do think they ought to remove insulting as one of the ways to make out the offence. It is much too broad.

Thu, 31 May 2012 00:26:46 UTC | #944673