Soubry and The Nazi Slur – An Offence?

January 11, 2019

Was it an offence to accuse Anna Soubry of being a Nazi whilst she was broadcasting on Sky News?

Potentially… is the answer.  The Public Order Act 1986 contains the most likely answer for any prosecution, in sections 4, 4A, and 5.  These sections deal with ‘lower level’ public order offences.

What are those provisions?

Section 4 is also known as ‘threatening behaviour’, and sections 4A and 5 are both types of ‘disorderly behaviour.’ Section 4 is the most serious whereas section 5 is the least serious.

The actions of the protestors during the interview, and then later on the street, might be one of these offences.

Which offence is it?

It will be for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide which to charge, and the Court to determine whether the people are guilty.  Both could be charged together, individually, or not at all.  The prosecution will need to consider not only the fact that Miss Soubry may have been affected by the behaviour, but also other members of the public around the parliamentary estate.

What about the shouting?

That seems like it might fall under either section 4A, or section 5.

Section 4A says that a person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour and causes or intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Section 5 says that a person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening or abusive words or behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person that is just likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

The critical difference is the intention of the person shouting the words.

And the behaviour on the street?

That could fall under either of the above, or it might be the more serious section 4. Section 4 says that a person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person. He must also have the intention to cause that person to believe unlawful violence will be used against them, or to do it in a situation where that person is likely to think that violence will be used against them regardless of intention.

Did the protestors definitely commit an offence?

No. The police will continue to investigate and gather evidence. There may not be enough evidence to ask the CPS to charge the protestors, and the CPS may decide that there is not enough evidence if they are asked.  The protestors may be charged and acquitted.

There are also free speech considerations. Article 10 allows for freedom of expression and shouting that Anna Soubry is a Nazi may be protected by that. Article 10 does allow for free speech to be curbed for the prevention of disorder or crime.

What if I shouted at Anna Soubry?

Each public order offence is different, and each case is too. This is a general overview of the law. Over the last few days we have seen definitive opinions on this subject, on both sides of the line.  But all public order offences need to be seen in context with the full facts carefully investigated.

How Tuckers Solicitors can help you…

To discuss anything to do with the The Public Order Act 1986 please contact us on 020 7388 8333 or email and we will gladly assist.  

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation.