Freedom of speech and the limits of UK criminal legislation.
Ezeani, Elimma C.
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This article draws attention to the fact that while the application of criminal law may serve to punish racially aggravated offences where they can be proved, such legislation in themselves do little to address the causes or, to limit the occurrence of racially motivated attacks (or ‘hate crimes’ in American legal parlance). Our analysis is undertaken in the background of UK legislation and the lessons from two UK television programmes which reawakened the debate on the use of hate speech and the recourse to criminal legislation in tackling human rights issues. The essay is in three parts. Part I examines the two television programmes referred to above – reviewing the application of relevant criminal legislation to the allegations therein and the impact of the media’s action in these circumstances on the race relations debate in the UK. Part II assesses whether criminal legislation can in the circumstances effectively counter racial prejudice. Part III examines the need for education and social action including whether UK legislation needs to put more effort into finding more enduring alternatives to criminal legislation in its bid to maintain a fair and tolerable society.