Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Swearing suspects 'face arrest'

People who swear at police officers still face arrest even though it has been decided that is not a crime in itself
People who swear at police officers still face arrest even though it has been decided that is not a crime in itself

Suspects who swear at police still face arrest despite a judge's ruling that it is not a crime, Britain's top police chief has said.

Scotland Yard Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said he was "deeply disappointed" by the ruling that using expletives at officers is not punishable.

But he said his officers would not accept offensive language after Mr Justice Bean overturned a public order conviction of a suspect who repeatedly swore at police.

Mr Hogan-Howe said he thought "there were still opportunities for that arrest to happen" if a member of the public was being abusive towards an officer.

"Often when people are swearing at police officers, there are other things that are happening, for which they can be arrested," he told Nick Ferrari on LBC radio.

"What we decide to make a charge on is a matter for either ourselves or the Crown Prosecution Service. So if we stick the charge at using obscene language, then it can be we make the wrong charge according to the Court of Appeal, I understand, that's what I'm saying I accept.

"However, at the same time, if the person is using threatening behaviour or acting violently, or it looks as though there's going to be a breach of the peace but we decide not to charge that, we've missed an opportunity.

"So it's not making evidence up, it is not aggravating a situation, it's making sure we take all the circumstances into account and select the most appropriate charge."

Denzel Cassius Harvey, 20, from Hackney, was fined £50 at Thames Youth Court in March last year after justices convicted him of a public order offence in repeatedly swearing at two police officers in Bradstock Road, Hackney, when he was searched for cannabis.

But Mr Justice Bean quashed the conviction at the High Court, saying officers were so regularly on the receiving end of the "rather commonplace" expletive that it was unlikely to cause them "harassment, alarm or distress".

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