The crime of "insulting" someone through words or behaviour, which once led to the arrest of a student for asking a police officer whether his horse was gay, is to be dropped.Well, actually, it is being dropped because the House of Lords voted back in December to remove the word "insulting" from Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act, which stated in its original form that
"threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour" might be deemed a criminal offence.As a friend said, a small step towards freedom. Maybe.
In fact, nothing very much will change and their lordships together with all those who care for freedom of speech can just, well, shut up.
Ahead of the Lords vote, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer wrote: "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."
Mrs May said that, following Mr Starmer's intervention, ministers were "not minded" to challenge the Lords amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill.Or, in other words, the Home Secretary will accept the Amendment passed in the House of Lords that tried to bring some semblance of common sense into this messy Section only because she knew that it would make no difference. How very sensible and courageous!