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GUEST POST: Jon Gower Davies on “hate crimes”

July 21st, 2010 Posted in Book Review, UK Politics by

After and over the best part of 400 years we in Britain managed to construct a relatively free civil and civilised society in which religious and secular life could flourish in public and mutual agreement and disagreement, vigorously and occasionally scatologically critical the one of the other.

Now, however, this public debate has been circumscribed by classifying such argument and such difference as expressing little more than ‘hatred’, a new criminal offence: And, alerted to a looming illiberality by a series of ‘hate’ laws relating to race, religion, gender, age, and physical disability and by the ludicrous ambitions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, all freedom-loving people would be well-advised to check on the legality of their public utterances before they make them – hypocrisy being the best policy.

In our new publication, we show how, in pursuit of ‘hatred’, the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service destroyed the free speech and independent existence of two ordinary citizens of Liverpool, a story pregnant with implications for all of us. When messrs Cameron and Clegg get round to their promised ‘Bonfire of the Banalities’, then the laws relating to religious hatred in particular should be the first into the flames.

As these two bold politicians told the House of Commons in June 2005, these laws ‘disproportionately curtail freedom of expression, worsen community relations as different religious and belief groups call for the prosecution of their opponents, create uncertainty as to what words or behaviour are lawful and lead to the selective application of the law in a manner likely to bring it into disrepute’. Our book looks to demonstrate how true this is.

Jon Gower Davies is a former lecturer at the University of Newcastle and former Labour Councillor on Newcastle City Council.

5 Responses to “GUEST POST: Jon Gower Davies on “hate crimes””

  1. Dave Atherton Says:

    John this is the archetypal political and personal banana skin. Where does bad manners descend into cheap abuse, where does free speech become incitement.

    I think most people have a real instinctive for what is acceptable and what is not. As someone who prides himself as someone who is polite, I hope, I can err on the side of caution. I think most homophobia and racism is simply appalling bad manners.

    For example I have run football teams and I suspended a player for calling one of the opposition a black c**t. I said to him you can call a c**t all day or as he was quite a big, even a fat c**t, and made him apologise afterwards.

    I support the right of fundamentalist Christians to go into a shopping centre and wave placards and bibles around saying homosexuality is sinful. I think they are wrong but should be allowed.

    I also particuarly objected to the way that Labour silenced the debate on immigration by calling anyone who objected to the numbers being allowed to settle as racist. I will go further and say that any information that is evidence based should be allowed to be quoted. The other side of the coin is that I was debating immigration with some BNP people just before the election, and I had this immediate impression that were ignorant, bigoted, crass and illiterate idiots.


  2. Niklas Smith Says:

    Here’s a very fresh example of hatred hysteria, this time from an Ombudsman enforcing a Council Code of Conduct on a Councillor: http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2010/07/meaning-of-stupidscientology.html

    I think it would be very strange for our elected representatives to be banned from saying that a belief is stupid – I would never run to an Ombudsman if a Labour or Conservative councillor called liberalism stupid!

    I can see the point of hatred being an aggravating factor for some crimes, but when it comes to speech the only liberal line is drawn at the boundary between debate and incitement.


  3. Ab Hamed Says:

    Jon Davis forces us to face the divisive nature of ‘hate legislation’. The Religious Hatred Bill together with the multitude of ‘rights instruments’ that are creating barriers to our normal social interactions. This legislation belongs in the dust bin and it is to be hoped that the Government will do at least one useful thing in its lifetime. Protecting minorities from discrimination is a civilised ambition, but the hate laws are divisive, because they interfere with normal human interaction mediated through comment, argument, scepticism, cynicism, sarcasm and of course humour.

    Self censorship is clearly the aim of this legislation, but is this a legitimate use of law, and criminal law at that. If physical violence were being threatened then the law already exists to deal with such eventualities. But when beliefs are all that is threatened why should the criminal law intercede on any side.

    These laws do little to tackle the alienation felt by the host community which is exploited by right wing groups. Instead of explaining the importance of tolerance and the rights of individuals to hold disrespectful views the Labour government chose to stop any dialogue.


  4. rossmaddison Says:

    Something is fresh to me


  5. He's Spartacus Says:

    We are drowning in laws.

    I was reminded this morning of a quote from Atlas Shrugged, which seems to fit the bill quite nicely.

    There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt.

    Hat tip, Al Jahom.

    You’ve been blogrolled.


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