The Law Commission in the UK has suggested changes to the laws on hate crimes that would make so-called “hate speech” like the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad criminalized. Critics have criticized the proposal as a suppression of free speech, some calling it “the Scottish Hate Crime Bill on steroids.”
The proposal of the Law Commission, an organization of lawyers in Wales and England, follows the recent terror attacks by Islamic extremists in France. The shocking proposal is a 533-page report that agrees with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statements that victim blame and claims that the current laws on hate speech in the UK are inadequate.
The lawyers acknowledged that so-called hate speech is punishable under Section 127(1) of the Communications Act of 2003. However, they argued that the laws do not “reflect the fundamental harm involved, which is not that it is offensive, but that it incites hatred.”
The commission, therefore, suggested that “stirring up hatred” offenses should not just include written material. In other words, news outlets’ editors could go to prison for up to seven years for publishing inflammatory images such as the Prophet Mohammed caricatures the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo published.
The proposal has obviously been criticized by people who advocate for free speech or even basic freedoms.
“One of the hallmarks of a totalitarian society is that the state’s writ extends into every nook and cranny of people’s lives, eroding the distinction between private and public,” said Dr. Radomir Tylecote, the research director for The Free Speech Union.
It was worth noting that the UK already has strict laws restricting speech. Tens of thousands of hate speech cases, which are labeled “non-crime hate incidents” and include social media posts, have been recorded. These cases are in the same database as real crimes, meaning they go to someone’s permanent record.