One of the most Draconian and sinister piece of legislation ever foisted onto the British public is the misnamed Protection From Harassment Act 1997
. Introduced, ostensibly, to protect women from the unwarranted attention of sexual predators and obsessives, it has been used more and more frequently to jump on people from a great height for at times relatively innocuous or even totally innocent behaviour.
In its December 10, 1998 edition, the Daily Mail
reported the arrest of a man for the “crime
” of smiling at a woman on a train. This was said to have happened three days in a row, which begs the question, why didn’t the non-victim simply move to another carriage if she found this man’s behaviour so oppressive? Fortunately, common sense won out, and the stipendiary acquitted the accused.
In recent years, the same and similar legislation has been used in numerous instances where there is no sexual motive, such as “howling at a police dog
” at an anti-fur protest.
According to the act, harassment requires a course of conduct, which can be as little as two incidents
– or as in the first of the above cases, two perceived incidents. The Metropolitan Police have now taken this to a new low by charging an eighteen year old Moslem with harassment over the distribution of “homophobic stickers circulated throughout London’s East End”.
Mohammed Hasnath, of Leamouth, Tower Hamlets, has been charged
under section 5
of the Public Order Act
relating to harassment, alarm or distress. The Public Order Ac
t which predates the misnamed Protection From Harassment Act
is cut from the same cloth, and if anything its provisions are even more Draconian. Section 5 includes the following:
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting
These terms are generalities so vague that they can mean anything the courts want them to mean, which is precisely the point.
It remains to be seen though if any Moslem would find these words threatening, abusive or insulting: “Arise and warn. Gay free zone. And Fear Allah; Verily Allah is severe in punishment.” Which is undoubtedly what Mohammed Hasnath or his lawyers will argue when he appears at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 1.
If there is any genuine basis for bringing any sort of prosecution against Mr Hasnath then it lies with laws or bye-laws governing stickers, fly posting and grafitti.