Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Hate Speech and homophobia

In 2004, the CPS examined whether Beenie Man could be prosecuted over a series of lyrics that allegedly incited the murder of gay men. At the time there was no offence of inciting homophobic hatred. In March 2008 Stonewall commissioned a survey of experiences and fear of homophobic crime in Britain, the results of which were published in Homophobic Hate Crime: The Gay British Crime Survey 2008 . One of the recommendations was that police should investigate all such crimes reported to them, and where relevant to explain the reasons why a decision  to prosecute was not taken. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 s74 now provides for an extension of hate crime to cover hatred on grounds of sexual orientation, although this is not yet fully in force. This year, the Coroners and Justice Bill was introduced in the House of Commons and the Report stage for this is due to take place on 21st October 2009. Contained in this Bill is Clause 58, now Clause 61, which deals with hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation and provides that:  ‘In Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64)(hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation etc), omit section 29JA (protection for discussion or criticism of sexual conduct etc)’. Section 29JA of the Public Order Act 1986 provides that: ‘For the purposes of the offence of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or urging persons to refrain from or modify such conduct is not, in itself, to be taken to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.’ This proposed modification has been subject to criticism from various religious groups, this one from Network Farnham being fairly representative.
It will be interesting to see where this all leads, and in what form the legislation here finally appears, but its interesting to think about its application to instances including some of the chanting directed at Sol Campbell for which a number of people were found guilty and recent disquiet over chants directed at Arsene Wenger, resulting in the removal from Amazon of CDs containing these chants.

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