Thursday, December 30, 2004

Article on the hate speech legislation

The Times has a good summary of the issues with the religious hate speech legislation by John Scriven, chairman of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship. (Registration required).
Prosecutions under the proposed law will require the consent of the Attorney-General and this raises the further issue as to whether the law would be used as an instrument of government policy, rather than being impartially enforced. The courts may, in practice, require a high threshold for finding someone guilty of the offence but, even if they do, there could still be a serious effect on freedom of expression because of the fear of prosecution, especially since the maximum sentence is seven years’ imprisonment. There could also be attempts by religious groups to use the law as a means to silence criticisms. The proposed new law can therefore only increase tension between religious groups and restrict the freedom of us all.