Court rules that calling an MP "a coward" isn't a crime

Calling an MP "a coward" isn't against the law in England, despite the attempt to prosecute a protester named Alex Cline, who called Conservative MP Mike Weatherley "a coward" for reneging on a promise to debate a controversial anti-squatting bill. Cline was charged under Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986, and the prosecutor argued that calling Weatherley "a coward" was using "threatening, abusive or insulting words," banned under the act. The Court disagreed. Separately, one of Weatherley's staffers brought assault and battery charges against Cline for allegedly throwing glitter, but later thought better of it.

Following the incident, Mr Cline, a former student at Sussex, was arrested on suspicion of affray, and was eventually charged under Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986, for using “threatening, abusive or insulting words”, for calling the MP a “coward”.

During the trial, the court was told that Cline had also had charges brought against him by one of Mr Weatherly’s staff, for “assault and battery” by throwing glitter in a separate incident. This charge was dropped.

The District Judge also ordered the Crown Prosecution Service to pay the defendant’s travel expenses for getting to court.

Protester cleared of threatening behaviour for calling Hove MP 'a coward' [Michael Segalov & Tom Mendelsohn/The Independent]

(Thanks, Steve!)

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