House of Lords written question – answered on 24th February 2005.

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Photo of Lord Lester of Herne Hill Lord Lester of Herne Hill Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, having regard to the judgment of the Supreme Court of Ireland in Corway v. Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Limited (1999) IR 485, that permission should not be given to institute a criminal prosecution for blasphemy in view of the uncertain state of the law relating to that offence, they consider that the common law offence of blasphemy to be obsolete and unenforceable in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice System and Law Reform), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

The Government do not consider the Irish Supreme Court case of Conway v. Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Limited means that the common law offence of blasphemy is obsolete and unenforceable in the United Kingdom. The Irish case concerns the status of the Irish common law offence of blasphemy. The Irish Supreme Court found that it was not clear what the elements of the blasphemy offence are in Irish law, in light of the Irish Constitution, and so agreed that the Irish High Court was right not to authorise a private blasphemy prosecution.

We will however continue to keep the blasphemy laws in England and Wales under review.

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