FREE SPEECH FOR ADVOCATES OF SHARIA LAW

FREE SPEECH FOR ADVOCATES OF SHARIA LAW

I noticed this-story about a Muslim convert who refused to stand during a Court hearing. The Defendant should have been required to stand in order to show respect for the proceedings but this is not what caught my interest.

Apparently the Defendant is prohibited by a 2014 Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) ‘from approaching members of the public in order to promote Sharia Law’. This causes me some concern as it is effectively a ban against this Defendant engaging in religious proselytism, something he should be allowed to engage in, provided he is not harassing members of the public.  For instance by pursuing them when they have told him that they do not wish to listen to whatever he has to say.

ASBO’s could be imposed when the Defendant engaged in behaviour that is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress.  From March 2015 ASBOS were replaced by IPNA’S (injunctions to prevent nuisance & annoyance).  These require a finding that the Defendant has engaged or threatens to engage, in anti-social behaviour and that it is just to grant an injunction.

It is not clear to me whether members of the public were simply alarmed and distressed that there are British citizens who openly advocate an Islamic theocracy (at least they are being open and leaving no room for ambiguity) or whether there was something about the Defendant’s conduct that caused others to feel harassed and/or alarmed and/or distressed.

I am not a criminal lawyer and have little knowledge about this particular case but it seems that IPNAS are drafted at least as widely as ABOS and if it is the content of the Defendant’s beliefs that are in question and not their conduct, then this would be of considerable concern as an infinite range of controversial views, when expressed publicly, could give rise to an IPNA.  Perhaps IPNA’s will be challenged under Article 10 of the ECHR, although the vagueness of the exceptions contained within Article 10 may enable them to withstand such a challenge.