To ask Her Majesty’s Government what criteria must be applied when classifying acts as hate speech or incitement to hatred and violence; and whether they have any plans to redefine those criteria following the recent attacks on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
Part 3 and Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (as amended by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 and Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008) cover a range of offences relating to inciting hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation.
For offences under both parts of this legislation, the criminal threshold has to be met in order for a person to be found guilty. For racial hatred the threshold test is that the words or behaviour used have to be ‘threatening’, ‘abusive’ or ‘insulting’ and intend to stir up racial hatred or having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up. For hatred on the grounds of religion and sexual orientation, the threshold test is different; the words or behaviour have to be ‘threatening’ and the person must intend thereby to stir up hatred on the grounds of religion or sexual orientation. This part of the Act also sets out a provision for the protection of freedom of expression.
The government has no current plans to make amendments to this legislation.