§ MR. J. M. ROBERTSON (Northumberland, Tyneside)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the prosecution for blasphemy, recently instituted, was decided on because of apprehensions of breach of the peace; and, if so, on what those apprehensions were founded; whether he has considered the expediency of guarding against alleged breach of the peace by other legal procedure; and whether it is proposed henceforth to institute prosecutions in cases in which, at political and other meetings, language is used which might conceivably promote breach of the peace.
1371 (Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) Proceedings were taken because it was necessary to protect the public against grossly indecent and ribald language used in a public street, language of such a character as to shock and outrage the feelings of those passing in the street, and, if persisted in, to render a breach of the peace inevitable. Many similar offences can be dealt with under the Police Acts, but in this case the police were advised that only procedure under the Blasphemy Act was available; and when the case came for trial the jury convicted without leaving the box. As regards the last part of the Question, I cannot answer a hypothetical question, but I may say that under identical or analogous circumstances the same action would again be taken. The case has no connection with, or bearing on, speeches at political meetings.