What is section 5 of the public order act?
“(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:
- (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour , or disorderly behaviour, or
- (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”
Victims of section 5
The following cases are taken from the website of Reform Section 5.
Cafe Crazy– Cafe owner Jamie Murray was warned by two police officers to stop playing DVDs in his Christian cafe that showed texts from the New Testament. Following a complaint from a customer, the police officers told Mr Murray that they were investigating a possible Section 5 offence. Later Lancashire Police said that the police officers had misinterpreted the Public Order Act and apologized for any distress caused to Mr Murray.
Thought police– Cumbria street preacher Dale Mcalpine was held for seven hours and charged with a Section 5 offence for saying “homosexuality is a sin.” The comments were not made as part of his public preaching but in response to questions from a police community support officer about the issue of homosexuality. Cumbria Police later admitted they acted unlawfully, and agreed to give £7,000 compensation to Mr Mcalpine in settlement for a claim of wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisonment and breach of his human rights.
You couldn’t make this up– An atheist pensioner who placed a small sign in the window of his home saying ‘religions are fairy stories for adults’ was told by police he could be arrested under Section 5 if he refused to remove the poster. John Richards, from Lincolnshire, emailed police asking what would happen if he put up the A4 sign. Lincolnshire Police replied ‘If a complaint is made then it can lead to you being arrested and dealt with for the offence of section 5 public order causing alarm and distress.’
Breach of Preach– Section 5 was used by police officers to try to stop Andy Robertson preaching in Gainsborough marketplace. The police claimed people might be “offended” by the preaching. Mr Robertson continued to preach but described the incident as “disturbing”.
Why the long face?– An Oxford student was arrested under Section 5 for saying to a policeman: “Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?” A spokesman for the Thames Valley Police said: “He made homophobic comments that were deemed offensive to people passing by.” Eventually prosecutors said there was not enough evidence and decided to discontinue the case.
Sign language– Section 5 was used to issue a court summons to a 16-year-old protester for peacefully holding a placard that read: “Scientology is not a religion it is a dangerous cult.” An allegation that the sign was “abusive or insulting” was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. A civil liberties group intervened and the case was dropped.
Barking Mad– Kyle Little was arrested under Section 5 for what was described as a “daft little growl” and a “woof” aimed at two Labrador dogs. Although the dog owner did not want a prosecution, Mr Little was detained for five hours and prosecuted. He was convicted and fined. On appeal Newcastle Crown Court quashed his conviction. The case cost the taxpayer £8,000.
Seal of Disapproval – animal rights protesters were threatened with arrest and seizure of property under Section 5 for objecting to seal culling by displaying toy seals coloured with red food dye. They were told by the police that the toys were deemed distressing by two members of the public. The police then ordered the protesters to move on.
The Law of the Street– An elderly street preacher was convicted under Section 5 for displaying a sign which said homosexual conduct was immoral. Some passers by became angry and tried to remove the sign, others threw water and dirt at Mr Hammond. When police were called, they arrested Mr Hammond. He was prosecuted, convicted, and fined £300 plus £395 court costs. The High Court later upheld the conviction saying magistrates were entitled to find the sign “insulting” to homosexuals. No one in the crowd was charged.
As you can see Section 5 is being used in some rather silly situations. Section 5 is intended to ‘keep public order.’
Lets be honest, no one really likes being insulted. Do they?
But who defines what an insult is? The police, the courts, the victim?
Supporting a Reform of Section 5.
As you have no doubt guessed I support a reform in section 5. One legal text book describes section 5:
“…extends the criminal law into areas of annoyance, disturbance and inconvenience. In particular, it covers behaviour which falls short of violence or the threat of violence.”
A situation that is an inconvenience or annoyance by no means warrens police involvement To me that is silliness and a waste of tax payers money.
In the Video below
Mr Bean Rowan Atkinson shares why he supports the reform of section 5.
So why am I advocating a reform of section 5?
Ultimately because I see myself on the sharp side of the stick. The tolerance police are on patrol, society is increasingly becoming more and more hostile to Christianity.
The Gospel is offensive!
Section 5 is being used to silence those the authorities don’t agree with. What are we going to do about it?