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Changes to Bill offer clarity on ‘insults’

Changes to Bill offer clarity on ‘insults’

Using insulting words in public will no longer be an offence, after plans to amend the Government’s Crime and Courts Bill were passed.

However, Home Secretary Theresa May warned people could still be prosecuted under other sections of the law if someone uses inappropriate language in public.

The use of the word “insulting”, which will no longer appear in section 5 of the Public Order Act alongside abuse, has been deemed redundant by Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, who said he found no incident where a person was insulting without it also being abusive.

Mrs May confirmed the DPP backed the removal of the word by saying the amendment would not jeopardise the ability of the CPS to bring prosecutions. Initial plans to have the word removed were vetoed last year in the House of Lords, while campaigners said the word meant police could use it to arrest people for minor infringements.

Section 5 of the Public Order Act was based on the word “insulting” and saw a number of spurious arrests and courts cases. One teenage boy was detained for holding a “Scientology is a dangerous cult” placard, while a student was held after telling a police officer his horse was “gay”.

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