Free speech campaigners and MPs have criticised proposals from the Law Commission to remove the “dwelling exemption” from incitement laws, meaning that conversations in people’s houses could be subject to police investigation for hate crimes.
The Law Commission of England and Wales, comprised of lawyers and judges, has observed in a report seen by the Daily Mail that actions or remarks which could be deemed to incite racial hatred are exempt from prosecution if they take place in a person’s home and “cannot be seen or heard outside that or another dwelling”.
The 500-page document says: “To the extent that the aim is to ensure that the criminal law does not intrude on purely private matters, the exception is poorly targeted. It would include a meeting held in a large private house, for instance, but would exclude a private conversation conducted in an office.”
“We therefore propose that the dwelling exception should be removed from the stirring-up offences,” the document concluded.
The Law Commission is also looking into recommending expanding protections for people who belong to sub-cultures like goths, nudists, and vegans, and making misogyny a hate crime. The body confirmed to the newspaper that its proposals would be sent to government ministers next year.
The recommendation comes as Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf last week called for Scotland’s new hate crime law also to remove any private dwelling exemptions, saying that a perceived hateful comment made even in a person’s home amongst friends “deserves criminal sanction”.
Head of the UK’s Free Speech Union, Toby Young, had warned in the wake of Mr Yousaf’s plans that the English and Welsh commission was indeed “proposing to change the law so exactly the same thing applies here”.
Responding to the Law Commission’s proposals, the Conservative MP for Romford Andrew Rosindell said: “People are already afraid of freely speaking in public because of hate speech laws which they believe stop them even telling a joke. The police have enough to do without investigating what is said inside homes.”
Scottish Justice Sec Demands ‘Hate Speech’ at Home Be Prosecuted https://t.co/eR7todzPeP
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 29, 2020
Members of Fair Cop, the free speech group that campaigns against the overreach of hate crime legislation, warned that the proposals, if adopted, would breach human rights laws.
Its founder Harry Miller, a former policeman who sued Humberside Police last year for investigating him for sharing alleged “transphobic” posts on Twitter, told the Daily Mail: “If the private home law is adopted by Government, a comment over the dinner table about a huge range of people could lead to a prison sentence.
“Human rights laws protecting privacy and family life would be in the bin. This is a neo-Marxist idea and will generate unfriendliness between different communities where there is none.”
Harry Miller won his High Court free speech battle in February 2020, with presiding judge Mr Justice Knowles saying at the time: “In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”
Concern over Soviet-style thought-policing was evoked by another Fair Cop campaigner, barrister Sarah Phillimore, who told the Mail on Tuesday: “I cannot believe the Government is being asked to consider surveillance of citizens in their own home. How will the evidence of such hate crimes be collected?
“Will we have an East German-style secret police like the Stasi?”
Delingpole — Watch: Ex-Cop Harry Miller Sues Police over ‘Transphobic’ ‘Non-Crime Hate Incident’ https://t.co/BKzRS0VXOS
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 23, 2019