MP Ed Leigh’s ‘victory for freedom of speech’

West Lindsey Sports Centre, The Avenue, Gainsborough.'2010 Local Election count.'Picture: Winning Conservative Parlimentary candidate Edward Leigh came to the local election count.
West Lindsey Sports Centre, The Avenue, Gainsborough.'2010 Local Election count.'Picture: Winning Conservative Parlimentary candidate Edward Leigh came to the local election count.

GAINSBOROUGH MP Edward Leigh is celebrating after what he has called ‘a victory for freedom of speech’.

Mr Leigh was congratulated in the House of Commons on the success of his campaign to reform section 5 of the Public Order Act to remove the word ‘insulting’.

He has been campaigning on the issue with the help of the Christian Institute to see through the change in the law.

A spokesman from Mr Leigh’s office said: “As it stands at the moment, the law outlaws any words of behaviour which are ‘likely’ to be ‘insulting’.”

“This has led to the conviction of a teenager for saying ‘woof’ to two Labradors, the arrest of an Oxford student who said to a policeman, ‘excuse me, do you know that your horse is gay?’, and caused the police to ask a cafe owner displaying bible verse in his establishment to remove it.”

He added: “The campaign has been supported by organisations and people as diverse as the National Secular Society, the Christian Institute, the Association of Chief Police Officers, Liberty, Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson.”

In the House of Commons, Mr Leigh said: “Most people are surprised to learn that insults are against the law in this country.”

“They think that that kind of law would exist only in some kind of oppressive communist society, not in England and Wales, where traditionally we have given the world this concept of freedom of expression, and the freedom to insult people is an important part of traditional freedom.”

He continued: “I believe—and we all know—that insults are minor compared with threats or abuse. An insult is a slight on one’s reputation; it can hurt feelings. Yet just because my feelings are hurt—because I feel that somebody over there has insulted me—should I attempt, or should the police attempt, to make them a criminal? I do not believe that is right.”

Mr Leigh added: “Section 5 has undermined civil liberties and I am glad that we are finally able to put this right today.”

The Gainsborough MP has also recently courted controversy for his views in opposition to the legalisation of gay marriage.

For more information or to get in touch with Mr Leigh you can visit www.edwardleigh.org.uk, call 07587 147116 or email him at edward.leigh.mp@parliament.uk