'Free speech' no defence for abusing MPs

Yellow vests

Yellow Vest protesters outside the Attorney General's office on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

“Free speech” cannot be used as a defence for threatening MPs, the UK’s director of public prosecutions has said.

Max Hill set out what steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to deal with offenders in a letter to Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

Earlier this week yellow vest protestor James Goddard pleaded not guilty to harassing MP Anna Soubry, with an expected defence of “fair comment”.

 

 

Mr Hill said democracy is “strengthened, not threatened” by “rude and shocking or boisterous and loud” free speech.

"However, there are unquestionably persons who purport to exercise these freedoms but who are, in fact, committing criminal offences," he added.

"As a matter of law, a person cannot rely on freedoms when they seek to destroy or reduce the freedoms of others.

"I am in no doubt that a claim to these freedoms cannot act as a shield to the investigation and prosecution of crime."

 

PM's 'dangerous and reckless' comments condemned

Mr Hill's comments come as MPs have warned that the Prime Ministers statement yesterday may escalate abuse and violence against MPs.

Theresa May said she knew the public “had had enough” of MPs delaying the Brexit process.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy said it was “dangerous and reckless” to pit “people against Parliament”.

Wes Streeting tweeted that the Prime Minister will have to “accept her share of responsibility” should there be any attacks against MPs.