back to article Wanna really insult someone? Log off and yell it in the street - gov

It will be legally safe to insult someone on the street - but not online - according to Home Secretary Theresa May. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 was amended by the House of Lords last year to remove the ban on "insulting" language. May announced this week that the coalition government will allow the change to stand …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank God

    We have The Ministry of Love to protect us.

  2. Crisp

    It leaves the definition of "grossly offensive" up to police officers (and judges)

    So if the investigating officer is in a bad mood or an idiot, you're screwed.

    (Please don't take offence at "you're screwed", it was meant in the nicest possible way.)

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: It leaves the definition of "grossly offensive" up to police officers (and judges)

      Yes, that sentence is a load of bollocks, isn't it? Fortunately, the police do not have the power to interpret the law but judges quite sensibly do.

      1. Ru

        Re: It leaves the definition of "grossly offensive" up to police officers (and judges)

        the police do not have the power to interpret the law but judges quite sensibly do

        How much time and stress will it take to get from PC Pleb who doesn't like the tone of your voice to Justice Cocklecarrot who throws the case out as pointless?

        1. Greg J Preece

          Re: It leaves the definition of "grossly offensive" up to police officers (and judges)

          How much time and stress will it take to get from PC Pleb

          Pleb? PLEB??

          You're fired! Get out! How could you say something so horrendous. If this doesn't make the front pages tomorrow, there's something seriously wrong with this country!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It leaves the definition of "grossly offensive" up to police officers (and judges)

            >Pleb? PLEB??

            AND HE SAID IT ON THE INTERWEBS! OMG!

            Is there a magistrate in the house? Someone issue an arrest warrant quick.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: It leaves the definition of "grossly offensive" up to police officers (and judges)

      too late "crisp" , you're screwed now. The Mary Whitehouse thought police will be banging on your door soon . oh shit so am I !!!

  3. Great Bu

    Investment opportunity....

    Time to invest in a bumper sticker company that makes "If you can read this you are a cunt" (Copyright Great Bu 2013) stickers then.....

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: Investment opportunity....

      Except that would be abusive, and therefore still illegal.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Investment opportunity....

        >Except that would be abusive, and therefore still illegal.

        Never understood why that's abusive

        Half the population spend most of their life doing everything they can to get close to one

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Investment opportunity....

          Given that the bulk of adult humans are 1.5 and 1.85 metres tall, that's not the size of cunt I think the poster was referring to.

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Investment opportunity....

      Alternative and in remaining perfectly Politically Correctly.

      "If you can read this you must be from scunthorpe"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Abusive

    In the amended act, the word "insulting" was removed from the line that outlaws "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour". Therefore threats and abusive outbursts remain illegal.

    Isnt the hard part going to be working out what is an insult and what is abusive?

  5. ukgnome
    Trollface

    So, for instance - I can't call Theresa May a stupid cow in these comments but I could confront her in the street and call her a stupid cow.

    Which stupid cow is responsible for this?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Though I like what you did there, the proposed change seems perfectly reasonable to me. I assume the offence of "common abuse" still exists but there is still a huge difference between calling someone a huge dickwad in a moment of high emotion and publishing it in whatever form.

      I've no time for the Tories but Mrs May was one of the first to put her finger in the wound of the "nasty party" only to have her speech as party chairman oveshadowed in press reports by the shoes she was wearing. This change okay, some of the other stuff her department is cooking up certainly isn't.

    2. Marvin the Martian
      Paris Hilton

      That, and the simple fact that an online insult stands unretracted for millions to view, while something shouted on the street is a quickly forgotten one-off.

      Question arises: if someone shouts abuse at someone on the street, and someone else puts it on youtube (maybe because they agree with the sentiment), it becomes a crime again? But who's the criminal, the shouter or the uploader? Both? Neither? What if shouter and uploader are the same?

      1. Mark .

        If we're talking about abuse (rather than simply being offensive or insulting, which should not be part of law imo), then these questions become clearer, and it also makes sense to me that in real life is worse.

        Whilst many people may have seen the above comment, it's very likely that May herself has not seen it. The issue imo should be whether the person is abused, not how many other people see it. Many of the cases caught under the 2003 Act were not targetted at a person, but were simply someone being offended by the statement. An abusive comment made in real life might reasonably be illegal, but a video of that is simply a video of a crime. Unless you started emailing videos to that person directly, in which case we might reasonably see that as something that is abusive again, similar to harrassment.

        Abuse in real life also gives people a much greater fear of violence, even if there isn't an explicit threat. It's harder for people to walk away from it too, you can't simply close the web page, if you're being followed by say a group of people hurling abuse at you.

        The 2003 Act was completely poorly written, and should be scrapped for something that specifically targets harrassment of a person (if such laws don't already exist).

        1. ukgnome

          So where would satire fit into this - As I understand things, this is how television funnymen get around the legal wranglings.

          As for my original comment, well I have tweeted her a link to this comment.

          https://twitter.com/MsTeresaMay - although this may or may not be the MP judging by her bio.

          "Mistress Teresa May. @MsTeresaMay. London's leading Mistress,. Domination, Bondage, Servitude, Worship, Flagellation and Financial slavery."

  6. Mike Brown

    the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

    Is this an attempt to gag people on the net ,who can converse with a much larger and broader number of people, about a vast array of subjects. Its much harder to organise a revelotion when forced to use word of mouth. Hmmmm

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

      No? Its just 2 different laws at different stages of development...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

      Its much harder to organise a revelotion (sic) when forced to use word of mouth

      You reckon? Robespierre, Washington, Lenin et al. wouldn't have succeeded without Twitter and Facebook?

      Effective revolutions always need their own independent channels of communication.

      1. Mike Brown

        Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

        @charlie clarke: i never said it would be impossible. Think of the benefits that the revolutionairies you mentioned would have found from having facebook.

        1. terlan
          Joke

          Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

          "@charlie clarke: i never said it would be impossible. Think of the benefits that the revolutionairies you mentioned would have found from having facebook."

          Vladimir Lenin has invited you to an event : Storm the winter palace 25th october

          Tzar Nicholas wants you to help him plant crops in farmville

          Leon Trotsky poked you

          Vladimir Lenin likes the page Karl Marx's 100 silly kitty pictures

          Joseph Stalin has sent you a friend request

          1. graeme leggett

            Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

            I'd accept the Stalin friend request, or close your facebook account, change your name and leave the country.

          2. JimmyPage
            Happy

            Actually

            my lad bought me a book last year "A history of the world according to facebook" which is pretty much that ...

        2. Tel Starr

          Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

          @Mike Brown: Think of the negatives as the truth of revolutionaries get revealed. The revolutionaries you write about were openly contemptuous of the masses who put their necks on the line, and always had a fast horse\car available in case things turned sour.

          Try using the old tactic of shouting out buzzwords and slogans to rouse the (ignorant no more) masses, while your enforcers stamp down on any dissenting voices. It just wont work nowadays; the people formally on the podium are now just faces in the crowd. In this new world everyone has access to the facts (and not just those supplied by the opposing factions) and a voice of their own.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

            "Try using the old tactic of shouting out buzzwords and slogans to rouse the (ignorant no more) masses, while your enforcers stamp down on any dissenting voices. It just wont work nowadays"

            It seems to work perfectly well for the Government.

        3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

          @Mike Browne

          Think of the benefits that the revolutionairies you mentioned would have found from having facebook.

          I suggest you look up "samizdat".

          Of course, one interesting conclusion that could be drawn from your suggestion is that revolutions are more likely now that the Nathan Barley's of the world have access to such great technologies. Should we all now flock to the Sugar Ape banner? What are our demands? Smoked salmon lattes? Geek pie hair cuts for all? Easy to see the powers that be tremble before massed ranks of people playing muff, cock, bumhole!

    3. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

      Revolution? In the UK? No chance. We Brits don't do revolutions - the ruling elite move just enough to relieve the pressure every time. Probably for the best (revolutions never improve anything: rapid evolution such as the collapse of communist governments in Europe.

      Let's face it, the "Glorious Revolution" is almost a tongue-in-cheek name - it consisted of about 12 men and a couple of dogs ...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the tin foil hat wearer in me is deeply troubled

        >Let's face it, the "Glorious Revolution" is almost a tongue-in-cheek name - it consisted of about 12 men and a couple of dogs ...

        And was neither glorious, nor a revolution. Opening the door to a foreign invasion is treason.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Bert 1
    Trollface

    Grey area

    Where would the law stand if I stood on a street corner with a sign saying "all **** are ***** and i wish they would ******" *, and it got photographed by Google and put into Streeview?

    *If you want to see the original, I can supply GPS co-ordinates of where I shall be standing with it at some point in the future.

    1. Bert 1
      Coat

      Re: Grey area

      Just thought of a name for the practice:

      Geotrashing.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or just use Tor.

    A correctly configured Tor setup where ALL outgoing connections are forced through Tor (i.e Tails) you can still have freedom of speech on twitter (not sure if Facebook block Tor connections, but twitter do not)

    As long as your aware of the fact that the contents of your message can be intercepted at the exit node you will be fine (the contents can be, not where the contents came from...).

    I have heard about a new Tor hidden service site - sms4tor - this allows you to send anonymous sms messages from within the tor network (its a hidden service so no monitoring of exit nodes can effect you as your connection doesn't exit - the sms message does...) .

  9. Another Justin
    Go

    Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

    Being insulted is a matter of personal beliefs, interpretation and state of mind - its practially impossible to say anything that is guarenteed not to insult somebody. Unless insulting behaviour / language is also covered by another offence (e.g. because its abusive or antisocial) then it shouldn't be an offence.

    That goes for social media too (where apparently the laws of Libel already apply).

    1. Intractable Potsherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

      Well said, Justin! I wish I could give you more upvotes!

      I know I keep saying it, but it is because it is true - no-one has (nor should have) a right not to be offended.

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

      It probably should be illegal in some form or other. We seek to protect people from harm, punish those who cause harm, and if harm is caused through insults (or abuse) there ought to be a mechanism to address that.

      That's the UK principle anyway and seems reasonable enough to me. it's different in the US where hate itself is not illegal nor a crime and citizens robustly defend the constitutionally protected right to hate.

      The problem, as noted, is how to determine what is criminally "insulting" or "abusive" and otherwise not, whether the harm claimed is legitimate or not. The DPP/CPS's rationale for accepting the change was that all cases of legitimate prosecutions for "insulting" were also covered by "abusive" so it would not really affect things.

      While the arrest for asking if a police horse is gay demonstrates the sometimes malicious nature of policing on the ground it doesn't follow that the law is unsound or that the trivial is being routinely punished in court, though such laws are indeed capable of being used punitively and prejudicially.

      1. magrathea

        Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

        "It probably should be illegal in some form or other. We seek to protect people from harm, punish those who cause harm, and if harm is caused through insults (or abuse) there ought to be a mechanism to address that."

        There is no form of harm that can be objectively shown to result from an insult. Anything at all can be 'insulting' or 'harm causing' (if enough imagination is leveraged) by the 'victim', If the harm is outside the realm of the objectively measurable .

        Total muddleheadedness - words fail me

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

        Personally I don't really care what anyone calls me if they are attempting to 'verbally abuse' me.

        They are, in my opinion, free to stand there (as long as they don't try to get in my way or attempt to physically impede me in any way) and call me a wan*er, a c*nt, a waste of fresh air or whatever.

        They can attempt to insult my family, my beliefs, my race as much as they like.

        Why? Because I simply don't find such childish behaviour insulting or in any way abusive - I am not that anal about life. I'm too busy enjoying life.

        I believe that anyone should have the right to (attempt to) attack me verbally.

        That said, I do however reserve the right to question if they believe such name-calling is appropriate or in any way contributes towards an adult discussion (which it usually doesn't).

        1. Mark .

          Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

          I think part of the problem with verbal abusive in real life is the fear of danger. If someone is walking at night, and a gang of guys starts shouting names at that person - well, in an ideal world they wouldn't care, but for many, it's hard not to be shaken or worried by that experience. This is different to online - there's the threat of violence, which also means many people would feel unable to retaliate. It's also harder to avoid it - you can't just close the web page or whatever.

          (Not that I disagree with this change, there's no reason to cover "insulting", which is a much broader thing, and it's good to remove that from the law.)

      3. Mark .

        Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

        The harm aspect is covered by "abuse". The problem with "insulting" is it's wider than that - a 3rd party may be insulted, even if they are not the target of abuse (e.g., the horse case). And the state of being insulted is simply up to the person themselves, where as being abused is not - there must be some element of emotional harm, and it's something that is perhaps a bit more objective, and is not simply up to the person claiming it.

        Are there any cases of "insulting" that cause harm, and should be illegal, that aren't covered by "abusive"?

        I find it sad that recent laws have so much trouble getting this right. It's reasonable that say, harrassing someone via phone or email should be illegal, or perhaps randomly being verbally abusive in the streets, but that isn't the same thing as someone being insulted or offended by any message.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

        I will only agree with you if the 'victim' is diagnosed officially with depression. Otherwise, some people need to grow up and learn to handle insults.

        Points 'in-favour' of online insults being illegal because it being 'retained' is stupid. Published insults only cause harm in a world where the number of publishers are limited and the number of listeners relies on those limited publishers.

        Today's world isn't like that. Everyone can become a publisher but the listeners doesn't need to listen. This means the amount of rubbish out there is tremendous. Which means, people are already being forced to learn to distinguish fact from fiction, trolls from debate.

        Honestly, those who're proposing such internet laws only just managed to learn how to get online and now they already think they know enough to force everyone to use it their way. Back off grandmas.

        This is why we're against government trying to control the net.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

          "I will only agree with you if the 'victim' is diagnosed officially with depression. Otherwise, some people need to grow up and learn to handle insults." - Makes me wonder how such people survived the school playground. My God, I learned some stuff there that even Channel4 hasn't yet touched upon (although "The Mary Whitehouse Experience" got close on a few occasions). And yes, I've been insulted in about a dozen languages (there's one African language where "dickhead" is quite a nice sounding word, but it was twenty years ago so I don't remember).

          "This means the amount of rubbish out there is tremendous." - hehe, such as the "LIKE" button. With no option to DISlike, nor a count of how many people visited and did not choose to LIKE, it is a completely rubbish statistic. 4,458 people "LIKE" The Register. If that is four and a half out of five thousand, it's impressive. If that's four and a half out of fifty thousand, it's less so.

          "Which means, people are already being forced to learn to distinguish fact from fiction, trolls from debate." - yet the banks keep on and on pointing out on their home page, in letters, and even in one case a sticker attached to the front of the bank card "YOUR BANK WILL NEVER ASK FOR YOUR PASSWORD OR PIN OVER THE PHONE OR BY EMAIL" yet people still fall for the old scams.

          <snide aside>If you want a good demonstration of fiction, look up the weather forecast for the rest of the week - you will find as many different forecasts as there are forecast sites, and when Saturday rolls around you'll see they were generally wrong.</>

          "those who're proposing such internet laws only just managed to learn how to get online and now they already think they know enough to force everyone to use it their way." - or maybe "WTF d'you mean I can't silence my critics?" and "who the hell is this 'anonymous' guy?" and so on. I can only imagine that to a control freak always-must-have-his-own-way pocket-lining politician, exposure to what the internet offers beyond the usual sanctioned gov websites much be a shock bordering on unmitigated horror. People can, like, TALK. Freely. Openly. And "butthurt" is one of the politer expressions. Hey Mr. Politician: yes, they're talking about YOU and planning your downfall...feel free to read and chip in when you figure out how. ;-)

          "This is why we're against government trying to control the net."

          I'm against it basically because they just can't. A while back I received an offer for a free ebook about how to beat your wife so it won't show. No, I didn't report it to the police, the mail headers point to the message originating in Russia. So I might get the police asking me a lot of questions about how I came to receive such material (it was sent to the address I use for usenet posting on comp.sys.acorn.* !) and given it is out of the country and out of Europe, that's about as far as it will go. So I deleted the message with all of the rest punting viagara and prescription medicines. Governments have been largely powerless to do much about that junk, so I figure it'd just be another item to add to the FAIL pile. Of course, I do get a tickle when some twit politician comes on South Today to talk about regulating/enforcing/controlling The Internet and I'm thinking short of baking NetNanny into all connections into the UK, does this guy even have a clue what he is on about?

      5. silent_count

        @Jason Bloomberg: Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

        Despite of your presumably benign intent, I find myself greatly insulted by your suggestion that "being insulting" should be illegal. When can I expect you to turn yourself in to your local police station?

        The problem with making laws under which people get prosecuted on the basis of entirely subjective evidences is thus: If this were really brought to court, there would be no way for the defendant, J Bloomberg to demonstrate that the complainant, S Count was being facetious.

    3. Christoph

      Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

      It's easy to have different interpretations.

      For instance someone might think they were being politically correct in referring to another person as an "African American". And the other person might feel grievously insulted at being called a Septic.

      1. dogged
        Pint

        Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

        @Christoph

        I actually saw this happen a long time ago where an American interviewer was utterly incapable of calling Linford Christie "black" at his request when he objected to being called American (on the grounds that, er, he isn't).

        1. PatientOne

          Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

          @Dogged

          I once described a person as being 'black: Afro-Caribbean'. This got a bit of an odd reception until I pointed out that it was the nationally accepted description/designation of someone who was black and of Afro-Caribbean descent. After all, it's on government systems and the census as that, so if someone wishes to take offense they first need to talk to the National Audits office.

    4. PatientOne

      Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

      The law is supposed to be about intent rather than interpretation.

      That you are offended by something does not mean it was intended to be offensive. It is for the person who felt offended to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to be insulting/offensive. This is already covered by law: Harassment covers verbal abuse as well as physical. There is no need for the words to be insulting to be harassing, either, so the harassment law is much more flexible and reasonable.

      As usual, there is no need for a separate offense. Unnecessary laws just confuse and obfuscate the real crimes.

    5. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

      "Being insulted is a matter of personal beliefs, interpretation and state of mind" - this is exactly it. There should be some common ground where the only sane solution is to shrug and say "shit happens"...

      It should not be an offence to call somebody a moron in the heat of the moment, any more than it should be an offence to tweet something akin to "if they don't get the goddamned airport running soon I'm gonna blow the whole place up!". The person has made a regrettable faux pas, but they are letting off steam, not directly insulting me or making a bona fide terrorist threat.

      The law, and the resources of such, should be left for cases where messages can demonstrate harm ("john is a useless plumber, I wouldn't trust him to fix a leaky tap" - could cause loss of earnings [note: doesn't need to PROVE such loss, just demonstrate that it may affect his business/reputation [subnote: unless can be shown to be true!]]) or make accusations ("my sicko pervert neighbour is a kiddie-fiddler") which, likewise, are more directly intended to be damaging and harmful.

      Here's the question, I guess. Was said message intended to cause harm and damage, or is somebody just being a twat and shooting off a string of insults because they are annoyed? It happens. Today I had to make a special journey (40 miles round trip) to sign a piece of paper because the sales rep when I changed my phone contract omitted to verify that all the paperwork was all in order. I thought of quite a number of choice insults to throw at him, but I kept them in my head. If I have a grievance about his lack of competence, it is that that I would be on about, not him as a person. Justified? I would say possibly. Insulting? Possibly. Illegal? Don't be ridiculous.

      1. MrZoolook
        Trollface

        Re: Being "insulting" should not be illegal in its own right

        Quote: "john is a useless plumber, I wouldn't trust him to fix a leaky tap" - could cause loss of earnings

        The 2nd part is purely opinion, and surely must never...EVER... be prosecuted. The opinion itself may be flawed, but it's covered under freedom of speech laws... yes, we do STILL have that in the UK, even now.

        The 1st part could be interpreted as a statement implying fact, granted. But even then, the addition of "I believe" before it would render that an opinion also.

        Allegedly...

  10. MJI Silver badge

    Oh good, can I have a couple of neighbours arrested.

    Been rude about me on Facebook with open profiles.

    I am not a FB person but it was mentioned to me.

    I don't speak to them as they are two faced and not right next to us, but someone who doesn't even know me called me an idiot.

    1. dogged

      Re: Oh good, can I have a couple of neighbours arrested.

      someone who doesn't even know me called me an idiot.

      Your complaint only serves to indicate their perceptiveness.

      1. FartingHippo
        Trollface

        Re: Oh good, can I have a couple of neighbours arrested.

        Ouch!

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Dogged

        We get on well with most neighbours, but a local busybody and her pair of fans are the issue. Her husband is the nearest thing to an idiot around here, but just say my next door neighbour had a visit from armed police, who turned nice when they realised it was someone they knew and a bogus call.

        Would you tell people that you used your work IT system to see what was happening with all your neighbours, then mention that person x is on meals on wheels?

        Then would you post defamitory crap on an open Faceache page?

        Mr Fan is just quiet, used to moan to me all the time, about Busy Body and her husband, suddenly he is their friend and blanks me, his wife is just rude, tempted to put a note through their door refuting her claims!!!!

        Neighbours - who needs them!

        1. MrZoolook
          Thumb Up

          Re: Dogged

          "Neighbours - who needs them!"

          Everybody... - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWhYBTYi-5E

  11. mhoulden
    Headmaster

    In the amended act, the word "insulting" was removed from the line that outlaws "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour".

    So that would be "threatening, abusive or words or behaviour". Sounds a bit like those BBFC warnings that a film contains mild language. If words are going to be outlawed, I'd like using "leverage" as a verb to be banned

    1. Richard IV
      Headmaster

      That would be "threatening or abusive words or behaviour"

      It doesn't say the words or punctuation weren't changed to make grammatical sense, as the true pedant in you knows they have been.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      re: mhoulden

      I was going to say the same thing.

      ( I said it above (and removed it) because someone posted in the interim and my ambiguous post appeared to agree with them, instead of you.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical double standards! Can't the 'glish get anything right?

    I hate being surrounded by these retards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Q: How do I get over my low tolerance for stupid people?

      A: Stop prizing brightness as a premium skill-set over other qualities and talents. Know yourself and know others. Discover what you aren't that others are. Recall people in your life who are not "smart" but are important to you.

      Learn to appreciate others. See other qualities as different - not superior, not inferior. When that happens, others will start to be open to your smartness. You get to put your smartness to good use and others benefit from it.

      It feels really good to work with others that are similar to you. However, there are other important lessons in life that one needs to learn. Becoming a more meaningful human being is one of them.

      I encourage you to take this journey to go outside of your comfort zone.

      And if you figure out along the way that you're not really that smart, it's OK. You're still a human being. And you can still be appreciated and liked.

      1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face
        Thumb Up

        .. and trust me on the sunscreen

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Don't knock everyone

      People can learn, most people (about 90%) are decent and even if not very clever can be productive and be likeable.

      Some of the most stupid people are the most intelligent, that always gets me.

  13. Lee Dowling

    I should be able to call someone a swearword. Everyone from Dickens to Shakespeare has done it, and it's not in any way affecting a normal person's life. We really are wasting people's time here by trying to regulate that.

    Also, the only logical conclusion would be that films and TV shows would have to ban almost all swearing - if the act is illegal itself, then depicting someone getting away with that act might well end up being regulated by the same rules, whether by word or law, or fear of prosecution, and we'll wind up in the same situation as smoking on TV has experienced. I can probably name 10 famous characters from movies who were never depicted without a cigarette or cigar, but try to do it with modern ones. They've gone. Sure, you can still see cigarettes but the law had an impact on silly things like movies too. (Side-note: I'm a non-smoker and always have been).

    I can think of a myriad variations that are "threatening", "abusive", or "grossly offensive", but that's not the sort of thing I mean, so the law is getting closer to a common sense rebound. "Insulting", however - why should that be a crime? If you're an idiot, I can say you're an idiot. It's insulting, sure, but it's hardly devastating to your life unless I do it in an "abusive" manner or I "threaten" you - both of which are covered.

    As people are wont to point out, personally I find religion offensive and insulting, especially if they tell me I will burn in hell, or that I'm not "one of God's children" or whatever fancy phrase they want to use to separate me from an ordinary person. That's insulting in the same manner. And though I'd quite like to shut them up, I don't think this law (which would have eventually permitted me to do just that) is sensible or reasonable or can be enforced fairly while it contains the word "insulting".

    Insults happen, thousands, even millions of times a day. There is no clear line of justification in the word "insulting" that you can use that separates incidents that are harmless, and those that are not. The definition is just not clear enough.

    And I don't see why you can't call someone the same things in person as you do online with the laws as proposed. If something is "grossly offensive", then it overlaps and will be covered in the same definitions as "abusive" or "threatening" in some manner - the only difference is that online publication allows posts that are not just verbal but visual too, and thus "grossly offensive" covers things that include obscenity of a non-verbal nature too, which I think it needs to.

    If you're insulted by something I've said to you, maybe you should either ignore those people, or fight your corner (verbally speaking). I find people who are "insulted" but can't be mature enough to ignore childish ramblings, or provide their own justification for someone not doing that to be the "babysat" adult of the worst kind.

    If my opinion matters to you, and you're insulted by me, maybe you're doing something very wrong and should look at what you did to cause it. If my opinion doesn't matter to you, then you won't be insulted by anything I say. The same is NOT true if you substitute "insulted" for "threatened" or "abused" (however, it does work for "offended", hence why "grossly" has been added to the definition to push it into the realm of extremes, not the everyday).

    This seems a sensible step, and the fact that someone in government has GONE BACK and CHANGED SOMETHING quite publicly means they recognise that. Maybe now we can spend less money on enforcing the ridiculousness that the police and prosecution services should have just said "we're not able to enforce that well enough" in the first place and never tried to (they have done just that for several other laws in the past).

    1. Crisp

      Re: Dickens

      Humbug used to be a grossly offensive word.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gay horse

    To be fair, having read up on the student who called the Police horse "Gay" he was an Oxford student who appeared to be deliberately pushing it and then got arrested. He came over as the sort of snotty posh boy who didn't really believe that he would be arrested because only oiks get arrested (not that all Oxford students are posh or snotty, just this one seemed to be). I can't say that I don't believe it was a valuable lesson for him or that the same wouldn't happen again if someone else did the same thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gay horse

      tricky situation - hate the police or hate the posh kid?

      1. frank ly

        Re: Gay horse

        But what if the police horse really was gay? Things can get complicated very quickly.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Gay horse

          Presumably you would have to show the horse felt insulted

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Gay horse

          So he was arrested for asking if the horse was gay?

          Doesn't that make the arresting officer homophobic?

  15. JohnG

    How about posting a video of someone standing in a street and dishing out insults?

    Is that allowed?

    Or, how about someone on some online forum or social media recalls the details of their earlier public verbal insults?

    Is that allowed?

    1. jayeola

      Re: How about posting a video of someone standing in a street and dishing out insults?

      your mum. In the nicest possible way.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Greg J Preece

    The police arrested someone for calling a horse gay?

    So the police are saying that it's insulting to be seen as gay? Interesting...

    1. PatientOne

      @Greg

      No, he distracted the officer with an irrelevant question, so was interfering with her duties. The correct charge should have been that he was preventing her from doing her duty by distracting her with that question. The papers then focused on the question instead of him being an ass and stopping her doing her job.

      Rather, if he wanted to know if the horse was gay, he should have submitted a freedom of information request and got a standard 'we're not answering that as it is specific to an individual' reply.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But surely the sole purpose of the police is to be asked the time at all opportunities?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    did you look at my pint?

    Not arrested for calling someone gay, but for calling a horse gay.

    Apparently its been off sick since and has been receiving counselling for its PTSD.

  19. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    What about Speakers Corner?

    Is that still good for anything that goes?

  20. James Gosling
    Facepalm

    Oh dear...

    That'll be the end of The Register then! :-)

  21. James Gosling
    Thumb Down

    The Police....

    The Police need less powers not more. Policing these days seems to be a form of sanctioned thuggery. And some the the restraint methods they use are utterly excessive. I saw someone on television being cuffed with his hands behind his backs then they lifted him into the back of the police van by holding just his arms, in other words putting the entire weight onto his shoulder joints bent the wrong way! And more often than not its a public order offense very much left to the interpretation of the individual Police officer or a teeny tiny bit of cannabis. The law is an Ass!

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