Comment may be free, but verbal abuse is not

Those who choose to verbally abuse police should feel the extent of the law, says Raheem Kassam

Violence at the G20 protests, 2009
On 28 June 2011 09:23

Last night I appeared on a short television interview on BBC London on the topic of the abuse of our police. Yesterday it emerged that the Police Federation issued guidelines to officers that suggested they should just take verbal abuse on the chin. I disagree.

The point was made that courts are more and more reluctant to take the word of policemen and women that they felt genuinely offended by verbal abuse, and that convictions as 'Public Order Offences' were increasingly difficult to secure. This isn’t a problem with the police; it’s not even a problem with our courts. It’s a problem with society.

Increasingly, people are challenging authority in this country not for the principle of liberty, not for the ideal of freedom of speech or for a safe and tolerant world without statist intervention; but simply ‘because they can’. A fair exercise of one’s freedom, it could be argued – but when this freedom is directed at someone whose job it is to patrol the streets of Britain, ensuring safety for us all, then I think we’ve reached a tipping point.

It’s a slippery slope when you begin to acknowledge, actively or passively, that those we empower to protect us are also due a good kicking from time to time by certain elements of society, as if there was something cathartic about screaming blue murder at someone you don’t know.

Without trying to sound too dramatic, I can foresee the very fabric of our society unravelling if we begin to tolerate this. Consider what would happen to you if you swore at a judge. Next it will be teachers, nurses and you and I who are subjected to verbal abuse with no recourse... then violence. As much as anarchy sounds like fun, I think we’ll swiftly find it is not. And no, we are not on our way towards a police state.

Police in this country at the very least deserve our gratitude for putting themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to protect us and our freedoms. They aren’t, as some Blackberry wielding pseudo-anarchist may insist, a "tool of the state sent to oppress us as an extension of class warfare." Grow up, I say to those troglodytic ne’er-do-wells who believe that nonsense.

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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