Section 5 (Public Order Act 1986)

Contributed by Yong Gyum Kim

What do you define as being insulting?

Dependant on the nature of your surroundings and the culture you are used to, the notion of being insulted differs for each and every individual. Thus, in order to establish a common ground the Public Order Act was introduced in 1986, which set out to maintain and uphold the social rights of each citizen. According to section 5 of this 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.

This act however has come under great scrutiny in recent times due to the excessive manipulation it has endured; which have resulted in a plethora of controversial arrests and malpractice on the part of the police and prosecutors. For instance, an Oxford University Student in 2006, was apprehended for questioning the sexuality of a horse, and for informing the officer that the mammal was ‘gay.’ He was later charged under this act and taken to court over the matter. Furthermore, a sixteen-year old boy was arrested under the legislation for peacefully holding a placard that read ‘Scientology is a dangerous cult’, on the grounds that it might insult followers of the religious movement.

Freedom of speech is an integral human right that should not be imposed upon, as per stated in the UN Declaration of human rights; every individual should possess the right to voice their thoughts without the fear of being persecuted or penalised.

Thus, the fact that because of this, multitudes of individuals are having to spend countless hours in police cells, and in trial is simply absurd, and it breaches one of the most primitive and fundamental rights that have been given to man.

The rule of law requires that people should be governed by accepted rules, rather than by the arbitrary decisions of rulers. These rules should be general and abstract, known and certain, and apply equally to all individuals.  Thus, even the slightest discretion in judging the soundness of the deed results in the law becoming flawed as for instance, the notion of  ‘insulting’ takes on different definitions when applied to different individuals; therefore this law is too malleable in the conditions of its convictions, and is a menace to one’s liberty .

The law rightly protects us against discrimination, harassment and incitement to violence. It should not be used to protect us from mere insults, and should not impede the right that is Freedom of Speech.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis, a leading campaigner for civil liberties, said reform was ‘vital to protecting freedom of expression in Britain today’.

Indeed the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, states that;

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thus, it is evident that this act and this law needs to be discarded or reformed with immediate effect, for the benefit of the individual, for the benefit of society and for the benefit of mankind.


What is Justice?

Contributed by Yong Gyum Kim

Before this statement can be sufficiently evaluated, one needs to consider the notion of justice in the mind of the Law. Justice can be defined as; ‘the proper administration of the law; the fair and equitable treatment of all individuals under the law.’ It can also be characterised as being the moral rightness and fairness, whereby every individual receives his/her due from the system.

However, contrary to popular thought, there have been a multitude of cases in recent years which have disordered and upset this system of Justice.

An exemplar of this case would be the Oscar Pistorius murder trial of his late girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp which eventually ceased with the sentence of 5 years in prison. This affair was clouded by a barrage of nefarious claims from both the prosecution and defending sides on the nature of Pistorius’ mind-set, and the reasoning behind the killing itself. Many argued that the case was partisan prior to it even starting as a result of Pistorius’ prestige and the fame that he had accumulated on a national and global scale. In what was South Africa’s trial of the Century, which had accumulated millions of spectators from all over the globe, the nation’s golden-boy who had united a country embroiled in racial feuds with his heroic sprinting, and an individual who had been idolised by countless youths from all over the world; fell from grace and was consequently belittled of his wealth and fortune which he had amassed with his cachet. However, it is still disputed whether he had essentially, ‘bought his way,’ to a light-sentence, as crimes akin to his would have normally brought about a 10-15 year sentence. Here, a parallel can be drawn to the celebrated American soccer star OJ Simpson, who was found not guilty of murdering his wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994. He too, was perceived as having purchased his way through to freedom.

However, contrary to these two superstars was the case of the South African musician Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye, who was convicted of murder and was given 20 years for a case that was parallel to that of Pistorius. He had neither fame nor fortune and was thus, left to bear the brunt of justice.

These episodes make one ponder whether authentic justice is truly attainable; or whether it is coloured by race, gender, wealth or prestige.