HC Deb 12 January 1987 vol 108 cc12-3W
Mr. Ernie Ross

asked the Attorney-General what criteria he uses in deciding whether a newspaper cartoon is sufficiently inflammatory to justify his consent to a prosecution under section 5A of the Public Order Act 1936; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

I take my decisions on the basis, first, of an objective assessment of whether sufficient evidence is available to prove the offence. On this and other aspects of a case, I of course usually have the advantage of the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions. So far as cases under section 5A of the Public Order Act 1936 are concerned, whether they relate to a newspaper cartoon or material of any other kind, it is necessary to show that there has been a publication of matter which is threatening, abusive or insulting. A publication must also be such that, having regard to all the circumstances, hatred is likely to be stirred up by the material in question against a racial group in Great Britain. Here the relevant factors are likely to include the nature of the publication, its circulation, the market at which it is aimed, as well as any special sensitivity prevailing at the time of publication which might influence the effect on those who read it of the material in question.

Having satisfied myself that the evidence is sufficient, I consider, secondly, whether, in the particular case, the public interest requires a prosecution. Each case is judged on its own facts and I have no hard and fast rule. However, I am very much aware of the damage to harmounious race relations and good order which may flow from the type of material covered by the section.

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