In a free society there should be “no right not to be offended”, says IEA expert

24 Feb 2021 01:47 PM

Marc Glendening, Head of Cultural Affairs at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, commented on Merseyside Police’s decision to apologise for claiming “being offensive is an offence” as part of a campaign to encourage people to report hate crime 

“The decision by Merseyside police to spend taxpayers’ money on a mobile poster van displaying the slogan ‘Being offensive is an offense’ was a clear attempt to psychologically intimidate local residents and dissuade them from exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“The subsequent decision by the Merseyside Constabulary to apologise, following a local uproar against this STAZI-like intervention, is purely rhetorical and tactical – in the same statement, a spokesperson for the force repeated that they would be going after those who engage in ‘verbal and written abuse on online.’

“The fundamental problem remains that what constitutes ‘abuse’ is highly subjective and potentially enables the police to go after citizens for saying virtually anything controversial and politically motivated. For example, Thames Valley police announced they would be going after feminists who placed stickers around Oxford that provided a factual definition of what constitutes being a woman in response to transgenderism.

“In a free society there should be no right not to be offended. Until the current government amends the Public Order Act, the Equality Act and the Malicious Communications Act so as to remove those sections that enable the police to define abuse in incredibly and increasingly elastic ways, free speech will remain under significant threat.”

Notes to editors

For media enquiries, please contact Emily Carver on 07715 942 731 or ecarver@iea.org.uk.

IEA spokespeople are available for further comment and interview.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.