The Home Office has at last confirmed that the amendment to remove ‘insults’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 will come into force on 1 February 2014.
The amendment, now known as Section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act, has been given its commencement order by the Government.
Earlier this year the House of Commons accepted the amendment, which was passed by the House of Lords last December.
The Government Minister told the Committee in the House of Commons at the time: “Those who have campaigned for this change in the law feel that the word ‘insulting’ in Section 5 could discourage people from exercising their right to freedom of speech.”
He said he strongly agreed with the view that “people should be able to, for example, express their religious views in the normal course of activities without feeling they are likely to be arrested for that”.
The Government will also issue new guidance to police to accompany the implementation of the amendment. The Reform Section 5 campaign was invited to review the guidance which was drafted by the College of Policing and was able to secure several useful improvements to the already well-drafted guidance.
Simon Calvert, Campaign Director of Reform Section 5 wrote to supporters about the good news, and said: “We are delighted that 1 February will finally see the word “insulting” officially removed from the scope of Section 5.
“Thanks to the efforts of RS5 and its supporters, we have gained a vital victory for free speech in the United Kingdom. Freedom of expression is precious. We must always be vigilant to protect it. And when we have it, we should use it well.”