Freedom of speech includes the right to offend, say judges

Woke folk, beware! Freedom of speech includes the right to offend, say judges in landmark ruling

  • Two judges have ruled that free speech encompasses offensive language 
  • Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby presiding over case in Court of Appeal
  • Ruling came in successful appeal decided last week in favour of Kate Scottow
  • She had been found guilty under the 2003 Communications Act this year 

Judges have insisted that freedom of speech includes the ‘right to offend’ in a landmark ruling which could help to turn the tide on ‘woke’ intolerance.

Presiding over a case in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby said: ‘Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.’

They added that ‘free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another’. The judgment from two senior members of the judiciary will set a precedent for future cases involving freedom of speech. 

Presiding over a case in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby said: ‘Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.’ Pictured, supporters of Kate Scottow protesting outside court earlier this year

The ruling has emerged only now, but came in the successful appeal decided last week in favour of mother-of-two Kate Scottow, from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, after she had been found guilty under the 2003 Communications Act earlier in the year.

She was arrested in 2018 and taken from her children and into custody after referring to trans woman Stefanie Hayden as a man, a ‘racist’ and a ‘pig in the wig’. Miss Hayden, 47, reported the online remarks to police.

In February this year radical feminist Miss Scottow, 40, was handed a two-year conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £1,000 compensation, with district judge Margaret Dodds telling her: ‘Your comments contributed nothing to a debate. We teach children to be kind to each other and not to call each other names in the playground.’

But, overturning the decision, Mr Justice Warby explained that the relevant parts of the Communications Act ‘were not intended by Parliament to criminalise forms of expression, the content of which is no worse than annoying or inconvenient in nature’.

Miss Scottow told The Daily Telegraph: ‘It was necessary to enshrine one of the most fundamental rights of every living being in a democratic society – the right to freedom of speech that is now routinely attacked…’ But Miss Hayden said: ‘This is… a kick in the teeth to the entire LGBT community.’ 

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