12. Jul. 2013. – 14:00:26
ACCUSATIONS OF VERBAL ABUSE CAN BE AN ABUSE OF FREE SPEECH
"Four simple anecdotes separated by twenty years but by an eon in public attitudes. Anywhere and everywhere are notices where public and employees converge that have the message that “abuse to staff will not be tolerated” or some such similar wording.
“Verbal abuse” is a term that would have been unfamiliar in the swinging sixties. There is remarkably little evidence of its origin but I would venture it arose around the same time as the feminist lobby began to agitate for equal rights in employment etc and became a term commonly used to describe dysfunctional intimate relationships between men and women.
Be that as it may the circumscription around many forms of disagreement especially when police are involved under s.5 using the pretext “verbal abuse” is one that magistrates must openly confront.
The current trends to stifling free speech are singularly wafer thin but put those slices of self censorship in a bundle and it can be more easily recognised how far from the free speech of the 1950s we have travelled. As magistrates we must administer the law as it stands; not as we might wish it to be but we can and should take a broad look at any individual circumstance."