In a 50-page report published today, Francis Hoar considers current protections for freedom of expression under English law and proposes certain reforms. Former Supreme Court judge and historian Lord Sumption wrote the foreword to the report.
Francis discusses protections offered by:
- common law
- Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- criminal law which prohibits speech that risks causing defined harm.
He highlights threats to freedom of speech online and makes proposals for reform including:
- Offences of stirring up racial hatred should be reformed to align them with the offences of stirring up hatred due to religious belief or sexual orientation.
- The word ‘abusive’ should be removed from section 5 and the words ‘insulting’ and ‘abusive’ should be removed from section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986.
- The Hate Crimes Operational Guidance should either be withdrawn completely or amended so police officers may not record speech or behaviour unless they reasonably believe that a criminal offence has been committed.
- Website ‘hosts’ of ‘organic’ content that is not edited or published by them (in law) should be prohibited from removing statements unless their publication is or may be a criminal offence or a civil wrong.
- Employment law should be amended to include express protection for an employee’s speech outside the course of employment.
You can read In Protection of Freedom of Speech: A Legal Analysis in full.