“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
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