The Adam Smith Institute developed a new paper authored by J. Byrne which has delved into the dire state of freedom of speech in the UK.
The paper suggests many of the current problems the country is facing in this area could be solved by adopting rules protecting free speech modelled after the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Currently as things stand, UK citizens can accuse others and even send them to prison for ‘crimes’ like feeling offended by their speech or finding that speech distressing or uncomfortable.
Byrne says a major factor in looking for a new way of ensuring freedom of expression, which is a vital element in any true democracy, is the fact the UK has several laws that contravene it, such as the Public Order, Communications, Terrorism, and Malicious Communications acts, respectively. The way these are at times implemented goes against their original purpose and amounts to overreach, he argues.
The latest batch of legislation which haven’t gone down well in certain quarters are the proposed Online Harms Bill and Scotland’s Hate Crime Bill, Byrne warns that all these create a legal environment that protects the hearer rather than the speaker, and relies on social attitudes to introduce ever more restrictive policies.
On the other hand, the legislation that at this point guarantees free speech in the UK is based on Article 10 of the European Convention, that Byrne says is ‘woefully inadequate.’ He explains that the article deals more with restricting than expanding free speech, whilst ‘being quasi-constitutional and poorly implemented in practice.’
Article 10 merely allows for subjective social and cultural trends to shrink the boundaries of free speech, instead of providing an objective firm guarantee for them.
Consequently, Byrne thinks the UK should take inspiration to the First Amendment to ensure protection of free speech and ensure no interference from the state, naming this potential new legislation the UK Free Speech Act.