MPs are set to back the move to drop the term ‘insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, according to a new poll by leading opinion pollster, ComRes.
The survey found a majority of both Conservative and Liberal Democrats – 79 per cent and 70 per cent respectively – back the reform, with support among Labour MPs at 31 per cent.
The survey of 154 MPs comes in the wake of the Government’s defeat in the House of Lords last month, which saw Peers vote overwhelmingly in support of Lord Dear’s amendment to reform Section 5.
The amendment has now been incorporated into Clause 38 of the Crime and Courts Bill, which is due to go before the House of Commons on 14 January.
Pressure further mounted against the Government following the news that Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, rejected their claim that amending the legislation would hinder prosecutions against hooligans and yobs.
In a letter to Lord Dear, the former Chief Constable for the West Midlands, Mr Starmer explained, “having now considered the case in greater depth, we are unable to identify a case in which the alleged behaviour leading to conviction could not properly be characterised as “abusive” as well as “insulting”.
“I therefore agree that the word “insulting” could safely be removed without the risk of undermining the ability of the CPS to bring prosecutions…”
Simon Calvert, RS5 Campaign Director said: “Day by day the pressure is mounting on the Government to ditch this legislation that criminalises free speech.
“What is disappointing is that even now the Home Office continue to push the line that if they remove the word “insulting” then they would not be able to prosecute hooligans and yobs who swear at the police. As this letter from the DPP shows that is simply not true.
“A majority of parliamentarians from both the Lords and the Commons recognise that this legislation should be reformed. It’s about time the Government recognised that dropping the word “insulting” from the law will stop innocent people being from being arrested and hauled before the Courts without harming the ability of police and prosecutors to protect the public. The move is sensible, popular, and they should get on with it.”
Mr Calvert concluded by saying, “The campaign has united a diverse range of campaigners, MPs from the left and right, faith-based groups, secularists and comedians. It cannot be right that the collective voices of so many continue to be ignored. We hope the Government will see sense later this month and allow this legislation to be reformed.”