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Plans to criminalise offensive words in private dwellings dropped by Law chiefs

Religious Liberty
10 February 2021
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Controversial proposals to criminalise ‘hate speech’ in people’s private homes have been dropped by the Law Commission after a backlash.

The Commission recently consulted on a range of proposals to shake up hate crime laws in England and Wales.

One of the proposals was to extend the crime of stirring up hatred over race, religion or sexual orientation to private dwellings.

This would have meant dinner table conversations could have led to the host or guest facing a police investigation and potential prison sentence.

In its submission to the Law Commission’s consultation, CARE warned about the constitutional implications of creating a new framework where the state can regulate private speech in home.

While CARE is not for a moment suggesting that it wishes to condone the spectrum of potential comments that might be made in a private dwelling, we are deeply concerned about the constitutional implications of creating a legal framework wherein the state starts to regulate private speech in the home. This would involve our crossing a statist threshold that is entirely alien to the British liberal democratic tradition.
CARE submission to Law Commission consultation

Writing to Lords Pearson and Vinson, who were critical of the proposed change, Lord Justice-Green, the commission’s chairman said:

"The criminal team is looking at alternative ways in which the law might be reformed in order to ensure that these laws, which criminalise only the most serious forms of incitement, are compatible with both the right to freedom of expression and respect for one’s home and private and family life."
Lord Justice-Green Commission Chairman

The Law Commission is due to present a 500-page legal review to ministers later this year.


CARE argued strongly in its submission to the Law Commission that extending stirring up offences to speech in people's own homes was a step too far. This confirmation that the Commission will be looking at other options is welcome, however, it remains to be seen what proposals are brought forward.

This decision puts a fresh spotlight on the Scottish Government where the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, has repeatedly refused to include a dwelling defence in the new hate crime bill. It's vital MSPs keep the pressure on because a dwelling defence is a reasonable and vitally important safeguard.

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