UK Liberty


Posted in freedom of assembly, freedom of speech by ukliberty on June 2, 2008

[hat-tip James Hammerton]

City of London and now Strathclyde:

POLICE HAVE been accused of “trampling on basic rights” after ordering protesters to take down banners accusing Scientology of being a cult.

Officers banned the placards during a demonstration against the self-styled church in Glasgow city centre last weekend. Civil liberties campaigners have warned a dangerous precedent is being set for the suppression of free speech.

Last Saturday’s demonstration was organised by Anonymous, an anti-Scientology group. Its members protest where the church is holding public sessions.

Strathclyde Police admitted officers had stopped activists using the word “cult” after receiving a complaint.

A spokeswoman said: “The word is not a breach of the peace in itself. However, in this case it was exacerbating the situation and our stance was that we had to remove that.

“From a policing point of view, a balance has to be struck between the right to assemble and hold a meeting and other persons’ rights to go about their business or demonstrate without being obstructed or hindered.” …

Difficult to imagine that a word can cause an obstruction. I can see how placards and people may cause an obstruction but that was not the original accusation. What is Scottish law in relation to the first issue? Is it similar to s5 Public Order Act 1986?

5. Harassment, alarm or distress.
— (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.

Incidentally a Dr Quite Evil writes to point out that in English law – the relevant law being s5 Public Order Act 1986 – “no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling”.

All very silly, isn’t it?

Perhaps the protestors should write “Scientology is a cu*t” instead.


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