back to article Swearing fine quashed as teens have heard it all before

Shouting obscenities in public should no longer be considered offensive as teenagers and coppers have heard it all before. The judgment, which may or may not be decried as a fucking outrage by the police and other legal authorities, came from the court of appeal last week. Denzel Harvey, 20, was appealing against a £50 fine …


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  1. EddieD

    There was a similar case about a decade ago in Glasgow

    A cop brought "verbal abuse" charges against a footy fan at a Derby who used the "F" word - the judge just asked the cop if ever he'd used such expressions himself, yes, ah, case dismissed.

    I try to not swear, mainly because there are other many other words which tend to be more effective, but I would recommend that folk look out the marvellous "Usage of the Word Fuck" - variously ascribed to Monty Python, George Carlin, Dennis Leary - but apparently the most familiar audio file was actually recorded by the Disney voice over guy Jack Wagner.

  2. Simon Neill

    I fucking wish...

    you would stop fucking swearing.

    I do wonder why we have swear words. Why make a word that people aren't allowed to say it just makes no sense. I'm not saying people should swear all the time, but if I drop a heavy object on my toe and I swear, my toe should take priority over your ears.

    1. AdamWill

      it's quite simple, really...

      ...if it wasn't a swear word, it wouldn't seem quite right when you dropped something on your toe. You don't say, "oh, dandelions!", after all, do you?

  3. Titus Aduxass
    Thumb Up

    Common sense at last

    Fuck me

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      'Common fucking sense' surely?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and on goes the moral decline

    No doubt this defense will be next used in a case of racial abuse.

    Thankfully at the moment the sports I compete in do not allow foul language although youngsters often feel agreived when they get sent off or disqualified for using it. I guess it won't be long before one of them takes us to task over their human rights.

    1. TheItCat

      Because context doesn't matter

      Clearly there's no difference between using a word abusively and using the same word as a qualifier.

      I mean, we all know it's not racist if you say "go away you person with dark skin" instead of "fuck off (n-word)".


    2. Francis Boyle

      Did you read the article? Unlike you the judge can tell the difference between swearing and abuse.

  5. hitmouse

    Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!

    I'm sure this is judgment comes just as Tintin hits the screens and more schoolkids learn some of Captain Haddock's salty lingo.

    Coppers in Oz used to try the same stunt to haul in some offenders, but about ten years ago a judge said that one couldn't be arrested for using language heard in every school yard in the country.

    1. Mark 65

      Although this guy should have faced prosecution over his abysmal (mis)use of the English language. Double negatives, tsk tsk, a fucking disgrace.

    2. Diogenes

      and that aussie magistrate

      was greated with a hearty "good f***ing morning your worship" by the prosecutor who lost that case. Surprisingly the Chief Commish was unmoved by her complaints about the language

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Shouting obscenities at the police should be an offense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only as long as the police shouting obscenities at citizens is also an offence. Such foul language I've heard coming from the lips of our much vaunted public servants directed at a poor chap who was being searched, tis a disgrace I tell thee.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And you’ld have them horse whipped no doubt.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very fucking true

    Having had a hoard of teenagers in my garden this weekend I can assure you that the language coming from my patio was nothing short of fucking fuckity fuck.

  8. atomic jam

    Served him right.

    He started swearing at officers when they searched him, what did he think would happen, he could have complied with the officers, who found nothing anyway. Don't get me wrong, I like swearing, but all in moderation, and not at people who are going arrest you.

    1. The First Dave

      So a bunch of policemen (I doubt any of them actually _were_ officers, more likely they were just constables) spent some time hassling this guy over something that he had not done, and you wonder why he got a little upset with them?

    2. Ralph B

      Swearing *at* officers?

      As far as I can see, he never even swore *at* the officers. He merely swore in their presence. Swearing *at* would have been something like "Fuck you, you racist fucking pigs!" rather than the mere colouring of his own language that is reported - i.e. "Fuck this man, I ain't been smoking nothing."; "Told you wouldn't find fuck all." and "No, I've already fucking told you."

    3. Circadian
      Big Brother

      Served him right....???

      Let's see - a bunch of arseholes decided to give this guy grief, and when they didn't find any drugs they stitched him up for bad language?

      Where's the outrage against a bunch of fucking cops who, just because they couldn't nail someone on one charge, still fucked him over on whatever they could use?

      In this country with so many laws criminalising every one of us for something or other, I'm surprised that they had to make do with a pretty minor bad language charge.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Really, is that your standard?

        First, while they are constables (all policemen, from the most junior to the Chief Constable) are constables. They are also, in normal terminology, Police Officers, nothing to do with the armed forces or the merchant navy rank system.

        Secondly, why should anyone, policeman or not, have to put up with what used to be called "foul language", even if not directed at them personally, which in this case it clearly was? They may not have been distressed; but they can certainly be offended, as can other people. Perhaps using "teenagers " (who checked their age?) is not a good measure, as at that age range, many attitudes are not common to most of the population, who, surprise, are not teenagers.

        Third, so you were there and evaluated the evidence and circumstances? You have got no idea on what grounds this chap was searched. Are you suggesting that police can do their job only if they are clairvoyant and so do not even need a magistrate or judge to confirm their certainty?

        I suggest you move to Sudan or one of the less salubrious USA slums to get the environment you seem to long for.

        You read like a 15 year old oik.

        1. Killraven

          Well stated.

          Title says it all.

      2. AdamWill


        "In this country with so many laws criminalising every one of us for something or other, I'm surprised that they had to make do with a pretty minor bad language charge."

        I liked Terry Pratchett's take on it, which is something like "even if you just stay inside, don't move, don't do anything, and don't say anything, we could probably get you on 'loitering with intent'".

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Me and a couple of mates

      got told to turn out our pockets by a couple of coppers one evening after dark, back in the days of the sus law. I had a small piece of hash, loose, in one of them. I took it out, briefly showed it, then nonchalently tossed it into the nearby grass, with the explanation "huh, bit of shit" They were sure pissed off, but I didn't get nicked! I guess 'shit' isn't a swear word.

  9. James Hughes 1

    Were he to have done it in front of me and my all pre-teen children, would the appeal have succeeded? I hope not.

    Queue lots of enraged comments from tards who think they should able to say what the fuckingcuntingwelllike in front of whosoever they fuckingcuntingwell please.

    1. Audrey S. Thackeray

      I'm all for trying to avoid swearing when young kids are around in order to save their parents embarrassment (is there any other reason?) but there's a huge way to go before I'd want it criminalised.

      One day your kids will hear these words and one day, possibly the same day, they will use them.

      If they first hear them when I am swearing in the street then, oops, sorry, didn't do it on purpose, honest but let's not waste anyone's time any further.

      The idea that this might have been done "in front of you" as if all the goings on the world are presented solely to you for your benefit or detriment is just silly.

  10. mittfh

    Double negatives

    Never mind the swearing - he was unintentionally convicting himself!

    "I ain't been smoking nothing!"

    Translation: "I have not been smoking nothing."

    Well, if you were not smoking nothing, then logic would dictate you were smoking something... :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      His constant insistence to police offiers that he did have something on them would hardly have made them stop searching, would it.

      Pfff, I arks you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fortunately this isn't Dubai where it's considered possession just to be under the influence of a controlled substance.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Sorry but there is no such thing as a double negative in UK English. It's only the Americans that bring maths into their speech (in this respect)

  11. Why Not?

    one rule?

    Look forward to the first prisoner that starts ffing & Blinding in his honours court and gets done for contempt.

    Oi Muppet Judge - try to maintain the law not reflect the downward spiral of society you moron.

    Seriously even on El Reg I am disappointed you feel the need to use th F word all the time.

    All I can say is ' It’s not big and it’s not clever.'

    It doesn't help any attempt to be seen as a reputable source of news (with great disreputable bits).

    1. Philolai

      That's not how our legal system works

      Over time the idea of what is likely to cause offence, alarm or distress has changed, and could encompass a range of things. Not all that long ago showing a woman showing a bare ankle or bare arms in public might have caused alarm, offence or distress (and still would in some places abroad), so would it make sense to prosecute this as an offensive when a typical, reasonable person would not be offended by it?

      It is the job of judges to apply the law to the circumstances they find before them taking into account the context; if Parliament had specific things in mind that it wanted to punish it was free to specify them in the Act. It didn't, so the judge uses his or her, er, judgment. Oh, and please don't call judges morons because you disagree with a half-arsed piece of reporting of what they decided and why they decided it.

  12. PsychicMonkey

    more sense from the courts?

    what is going on!

  13. jake Silver badge

    A fucking judge with a clue?


    If he'd fined the coppers for wasting court time, I'd really be impressed ... but that's not going to happen. Not in today's climate ...

  14. Stumpy
    Thumb Up

    Indeed. The truncheon-fondlers should instead, just beat the living shit out of the little foul mouthed scrotes with aforementioned truncheons to teach them some manners.

  15. Rob 85

    Finally a common fucking sense judgment from the judiciary.

  16. TRT Silver badge

    The cussin'...

    is a sign of an aggressive attitude, and as such should be tackled. The 'freedom' to swear at the police undermines the respect required to maintain public order and as such these mouthy gob-shites should be hauled before the beak at the earliest opportunity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Respect is earned.

      If the police were being tossers, then they deserved to be sworn at.

      Actually - these police were not actually sworn at, so you fail twice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I start from the other end, respect is a given, initially, but can easily be lost. It's possible for people to lose my respect very, very easily though.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Actually, actually?

      My comment was based on the original report as carried by El Reg, which stated that the youth being searched, on several occasions, unnecessarily swore at the officers. The comment I left represents my general opinion, with an attempt to display slightly humorous tone by my ironic use of a derogatory and possibly offensive term. If you would care to explain your logic as to why "I fail twice" and just what it was I failed, I'd be more than happy to take that on board for due consideration.

  17. Jedit Silver badge

    With apologies to Roy Rogers

    Four letter words, four letter words, they'll never let you down

    They're seldom repeated, yet oft overhead

    Those wonderful one-two-three-four letter words

    They shouldn't be used in polite company

    When ancient old ladies are sipping their tea

    But just ask their husbands, you'll find sure as hell

    They've not only said them, they've done them as well

    Four letter words, four letter words, they'll never let you down

    They're seldom repeated, yet oft overhead

    Those wonderful one-two-three-four letter words

    They're tried and they're tested, they're steadfast and true

    You say them when other words simply won't do

    They're honest and faithful right down to the end

    They're our wonderful one-two-three-four letter friends!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    works both ways

    I'd love to hear a copper swearing back at the scum!

    1. Circadian

      cops swearing

      Guess you've not been out around chucking out time. Cops have pretty foul language themselves. Though considering what they are having to police, it's no wonder that they use the "language of the street".

  19. Is it me?

    Just because you've heard it before

    Doesn't mean you want to hear it again.

    I doubt may people like to be sworn at for doing thier jobs,regardless of the words used. We all sware given the right circumstances, but yuoof does tend to use the F and C words as ajectives to describe virtually anything, good or bad. Probably because it annoys grey haired old codgers like me, and shows them to be webbles wiv aht a cawz. The criminal element tends to do this as well, mainly because they have been caught and it makes them angry.

    Use of sware words should be against the law, as a form of agression, but I doubt anyone would ever be, or ever has been, prosecuted for swaring due to accident.

    Why shgould it be OK to sware at a police officer, or shop assistant, doctor, nurse, even a call centre operative, just for doing their job, no matter how irritating it is to you. It is illegal to sware at anybody, by the way, not just police officers.

    Go on, ask your friends if they thinks it's Ok to sware at them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He wasn't sworn at you stupid fuck, learn to read.

      Note: you were just sworn at because I directed it at you. Using a swear word in a sentence doesn't mean you're swearing at someone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Most REASONABLE people would take the language as aimed at or spoken to annoy them. I trust your job does not require sensitivity to anyone other than your dim self, or you must be doing very badly at it.

        Just because it may be common does not make it right, inoffensive or acceptable. Theft, assault, cheating, pushing in to queues, spitting, assault, skiving work, feigning illness, sheer bad manners, careless driving, dangerous driving, idiocy, poverty are all common and visible and audible daily in any city. I still do not believe that makes them right or acceptable and, somehow, I suspect even you do not really believe so.

      2. Killraven


        The guy was speaking *at* the cops, therefore the police officers were being sworn at. The specific placements of adjectives is rather immaterial.

    2. Vic

      > Go on, ask your friends if they thinks it's Ok to sware at them.

      Righto. I just did, and the general response was "fuck aye".

      So that's alright then.


      1. Killraven

        Bad example

        There's a big difference between swearing at your friends, swearing at a total stranger, and swearing at the police.

  20. Jim 59
    Thumb Down

    Broken Window Theory

    Whether bystanders are familiar or not with swearing is irrelevant IMO. This judge needs to go away and polish his wig. Swearing loudly in the street in the hearing of strangers can be threatening and intimidating, and is rightly illegal. As for swearing at the police - they are citizens too and the law applies to all.

    Judges who query trivial laws like this remind me of driving testers who fail a few more candidates to generate repeat business. This judge's actions will trigger a round of pricey discussion that may enrich many in the legal profession while leading to no tangable public benefit, no wealth generation, and probably no change in the law. Sorry about the cynicism.

    1. Falanx

      Re: Broken Window Theory

      Police are citizens, too? Really? Not a paramilitary force, as has been put about by various members of the Met?

      From the reading of the report, I'd have said it would have been quite obvious to any bystander who and where the ire was being directed, and that it was not cursing in their direction. Context is everything, Jim. So why those in earshot but utterly unaddressed should feel harrassed or assailed by what is in essence, just a sound, is beyond me, and I would have thought anyone with a modicum of temperance and reading comprehension.

      And he didn't query it. He called bullshit.

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Police are citizens, in the colloquial sense, but strictly speaking we're all 'subjects' in this country. Republics have citizens.

        The distinction being alluded to is civilian versus miilitary. We have a civilian police force in the UK. Police, in theory, are subject to the same law as the rest of us civilians which is why police get tried in civilian courts rather than courts martial.

      2. Jim 59

        Broken Window Theory

        It's a subjective judgement as to whether loud swearing in the street can intimidate or alarm bystanders. In my judgement it can. As for the cops, I would disagree with the judge's assessment that the intimidating effect of having swear words shouted at you is removed if you have heard the words before.

        The right balance is for the cop to put up with a modicum of swearing, to warn the guy he may be arrested under Section 5 if he keeps swearing, then do so if he does.

        A seperate reason to punish loud swearing in public is that the law must be seen to react to it, both by the perpetrato and other members of the public.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Yes, they are citizens. Most definitely.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Yes. They are.

        They are also given 'special (legal) powers' to do their job.

        If they break the law doing their job then they should also face any consequences.

        So when a policeman swears at/nearby to someone who could be offended, should they also lose their job/pay fine/etc?

    3. TRT Silver badge

      That's a tricky one, as who would arrest them for it? However, what you say does happen. It's handled through the IPCC; I'd have thought you'd have known that?

      1. Vic

        > It's handled through the IPCC; I'd have thought you'd have known that?

        Not according to these bobbies, it isn't.

        They deemed swearing to be an arrestable offence in the case of someone who clearly wasn't guilty of what they wanted him to be.

        So if they had also heard one of their own officers swearing, then they would be duty-bound[1] to arrest that officer for breaking the law. Anything else would be showing preferential treatment, and that would be corruption...


        [1] Prior to this ruling, at any rate. Afterwards, they could have claimed to have "learnt their lesson".

  21. peter 45

    Effing used by all participants

    From what I saw at the weekend, I am not sure who used more swear words, the Police, the two drunken idiots trying to fight each other, or their one-night-only-girlfriends (who split their time between screeching at the Police, each other, their boyfriends, or passers-by).

    I let the police off, as it seems that swear words were the only bit of the instructions given to the evening's entertainment that they could actually understand.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Common fucking sense.

    He was, however, being a bit of a cunt.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm, on the whole I have sympathy for all parties involved

    However, for the ungrammatical, "Told you wouldn't find fuck all", he should be hung, drawn and quartered.

  24. Richard Scratcher

    Swearing Judges

    Barrister: "What were you doing at the docks on the night in question?"

    Defendant: "Fuck all!"

    Judge: "I'm sorry, what was that? What did he say?"

    Barrister: "He said fuck all m'lord."

    Judge: "Really? I could have sworn he said something."


    Judge: "I must begin today with an apology to the court. I've left my summation at home."

    Court Clerk: "Fax it up m'lord."

    Judge: "Yes, I suppose it does rather."

  25. Suburban Inmate

    Hear here!

    Problem: Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

    My proposed solution: The Japanese language. (IIRC it does not have any swear words.)

  26. b166er

    Wow there are some fucking knobhead comments here.

    My son overheard someone saying fuck when he was about 5 or 6 (until then it hadn't even registered when someone said it). For a few hours, he tested me by using the word (wholly out of context, bless) frequently.

    Eliciting no reaction whatsoever, he promptly gave up.

    He's 12 now and says it for effect occasionally, always in context, which can be hilarious.

    Am I bothered? Am I fuck! I'm with the judge on this one.

    Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

    Fucktard, fuckwit, fucknuts, fuckflaps, cunty shit-lip piss-whicket.

    Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles:

    'I want my fucking car, right fucking now'

    That's it, I'm off to celebrate fucking

  27. Hand1e

    In Germany you will regularly get done with this, usually fined.

    Some nicely-translated examples here:

    And if you are going to go with the expense of showing your middle finger (€4000) you may as well throw in some tear-gas for a mere €750 extra.

  28. Killraven

    Simple manners...

    They really can't be legislated, for as has been well proven in this comments section alone, people just like to think that they're being tough, funny or ironic by swearing.

    1. Suburban Inmate

      I believe that just being politely epicly smug would have been a better tact, but you must consider that the police often invite this sort of treatment. Even I know this from experience, and I'm white FFS!

      See Confessions of an undercover cop. (recent documentry) On joining a peaceful protest he was shown so much simple manners by the police that blood poured out of his head.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't like swearing in public but I do,on occasions, swear in private.

    The word fuck is without doubt overused and has degenerated into a substitute word often used by people who do not have a vocabulary sufficient to express themselves clearly.

    Im in my 60s and served in the Forces where profanities were common but still moderated when in mixed company.

    Today one hears bad language used ,mainly by youngsters, in most public places and I have to say I still consider it ill mannered.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dangerous precedents

    Some incredibly naiive comments from the Reg readership on this article. Are you people seriously agreeing with criminalising the use of the word 'fuck' in public???

    The very fact that the police in question had to resort to this charge indicates the person in question was pretty compliant and innocent. Resisting arrest, threatening behaviour, disorderly condunct, 'feared for my safety', inciting violence, drunken behavior, loitering etc, none of those handy ones were available here.

    The persons language was non threatening and he may just speak like that. Some of us do. To be arrested for a situation which arises out of police action is dubious in itself. Its akin to a manufactured arrest. How much harassment can *you* take before you use a word which the police will suggest causes 'alarm', 'harassment; or 'distress' to those around you?

    If you take the side of the police in this, you deserve police like this.

  31. Christopher Blackmore

    The main use of swearing...

    ... is to enable inadequate stand-up comedians to fill twenty minutes with five minutes' worth of material.

  32. Alan Brown Silver badge

    swearing police

    In my neck of the woods the police seem to exhibit exemplary language skills.

    Or at least: They avoid swearing. Even if they're having to shout at the top of their lungs at the large aggressive drunk who has just taken a face full of CS spray and is still bearing down on them.

    I was impressed, to put it mildly (and the drunk yob almost demolished the inside of the police van when they finally got him into it. I never realised they could rock'n'roll so much)

    IMO the public order offence isn't so much swearing as being aggressive about it - or deliberately doing it to cause offence (your freedom of speech doesn't trump my right to not be forced to listen to it, etc)

    1. TRT Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Here, here.

      I got stopped this summer by the traffic police in Southend over an (unknown to me) irregularity with my VOSA status (an IT SNAFU of course from two years back when I'd first bought the car).

      If I'd have wound down my window and said "What're you f*ing stopping me for? I ain't f*ing done nuffin!" I'd quite rightly have expected my day out to have been cut short, a trip to the station, myself and my vehicle searched with a fine toothed comb and probably my car towed away with me bearing the cost. There's no need for the aggression or the profanity. Quite right that you cannot legislate for manners, but there's a definite need to send a signal that bad manners are anti-social and will not be tolerated. If this judge undermines the officer on the street's ability to warn and then arrest people over verbal abuse, then it's the thin end of the wedge for us law-abiding citizens. You might as well say that a home-owner can't defend themselves against a burglar. Oh...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rule no. 1:

    Don't talk to cops.

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