Thursday, 30 October 2008

Blame where it lies

I am as guilty as the next man, (Hello - nice to meet you), when it comes to adopting a bit of a scatter-gun approach to the legal authorities and the way they decide to do whatever it is they are responsible for undertaking. However, in this snippet from an outgoing DPP. In his last interview as Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald says Muslims should know that new religious hatred laws offer them little protection.

Turning to hate speech in Britain, Sir Ken pointed out that the new offence of incitement to religious hatred in the Racial and Religious Hatred act 2006 offers Muslims little more protection than they had before the law came into force last year.

This is because a prosecution can be brought only if there is evidence of deliberately threatening behaviour that was deliberately intended to stir up hatred to a high degree. Recklessness and even deliberately stirring up ridicule, hostility and contempt were excluded by Parliament. There are also broad exemptions protecting freedom of speech.

“So you end up with an offence that was presented to particular communities as something to their benefit and which doesn’t actually have much use,” Sir Ken said.

It was important to explain this to those who had expected protection from the new law. “Right from the start, we were very frank in our various engagements with Muslim communities that this law was going to be very challenging to apply and we didn’t expect to see very many prosecutions.”

That was not the message the Government wanted to hear, it was suggested. “It’s what Parliament wanted,” he replied.

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