Monday, December 27, 2010

The Case Against Guramit Singh

We reported last week on the arrest of Guramit Singh, the spokesman for the English Defence League. Mr. Singh is now facing a “hate speech” charge in court.

Nick is a regular reader and commenter here at Gates of Vienna. He dug into the legal background of the case against Mr. Singh, and posted the results at The Frozen North. With Nick’s kind permission, his report is republished below.


Guramit SinghGuramit Singh was arrested on 21st December on suspicion of intentionally causing religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress. This followed an EDL protest in Peterborough on 11th December.

The offence in question is defined in Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986. The ‘religiously aggravated’ component of the charge is defined in Part II of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The term ‘religiously aggravated’ is defined in Section 28 of the Act and its application to the public order offence which Mr. Singh has been charged with is defined in Section 31 of the Act.

If one researches the basic offence which Mr. Singh is charged with, one finds that it did not exist when the Public Order Act 1986 was enacted. At that time, in accordance with Section 5 of the Act, one could be found guilty of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour within earshot of someone likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby. Upon summary conviction, one could receive a fine of up to level 3 on the standard scale.

This changed with the enactment of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Section 154 of that Act defined a new offence, that of intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress. This was then inserted into the Public Order Act 1986 as Section 4A, and it is this legislation that has been cited by the Cambridgeshire Constabulary in the arrest of Guramit Singh. Note that if one is found guilty of this offence then one is liable to a prison term of up to six months, a fine of up to level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

One finds then that if Mr. Singh had been charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 he would have faced a fine of up to £1000. Since he has been charged under Section 4A of the Act, Mr. Singh faces a fine of up to £5000 or up to six months in prison, or both.

The offence is made even more serious by the inclusion of the term ‘religiously aggravated’. As Section 31, sub-section (4) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 states, if one is found guilty of an offence under Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 which is ‘religiously aggravated’ then one faces, on summary conviction, up to six months in prison or a fine of up to the statutory maximum, or both. On conviction on indictment however, one faces a prison term of up to two years, or a fine, or both.

Sub-section (6) of Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 also indicates that on trial on indictment, even if one is found not guilty of intentionally causing ‘religiously aggravated’ harassment, alarm or distress one can still be found guilty of the basic offence as defined in Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986.

Since Guramit Singh was at an EDL event when he did whatever the Cambridgeshire Constabulary thought contravened the aforementioned legislation, anyone who might be at an EDL event in the future would do well to make sure they understand the relevant laws. After all, they could be next.

18 comments:

KingJanIIISobieski said...

If you read the link from the Frozen North site to Cambridgeshire police, it says he has been bailed to return to a police station in Cambridgeshire in February.

No mention of him being charged yet.

http://www.cambs.police.uk/news/newsitem.asp?NewsID=5848

Juniper in the Desert said...

Re: your last sentence Baron, all of us who were on that demo, should put ourselves up for arrest, if they convict Guramit!

We have to expose and keep exposing the way the law is selectively used against the EDL, when the mozlems say and do more horrendous things! NFSE!!

Baron Bodissey said...

Juniper --

Remember, Nick wrote this, not me.

wolf said...

I have been a long time reader of the Gates of Vienna, In past news articles I have seen moslems holding up sign saying "death to the infidels", "Islam will rule England", not to mention what they yelled and screamed at the police and English bystanders.
WHY has no Englishman been offended by this and brought these moslems up on charges? Or is this law just for moslems to bring charges up against non-moslems?

Richard said...

Wolf I am surprised you don't you know that being offended by speech is a right reserved for the favored minorities, and usually by the current favorite.

Anonymous said...

I love how the Crime and Disorder Act strongarms defendants into guilty pleas. Summary conviction is a six month maximum sentence. If they have to bother indicting and trying you, the maximum sentence is 2 years.

Nick said...

King Jan,
You're quite right, it says on the Cambridgeshire Constabulary site that he's been arrested on suspicion of intentionally causing religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress. (What a mouthful!) And having looked into it, it does appear that in England one can be arrested and bailed to reappear at a later date, without actually being charged. I'm afraid I went by my own experience under Scottish law, which is slightly different. Shall we agree then, that the opening of the second paragraph would be better off saying: 'The offence in question is defined in Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986.'

Nick said...

King Jan, I've edited the article at 'The Frozen North' - thanks for the help.

gsw said...

well, having failed to make a racist charge stick - they are forced to fall back on shariah - insulting my religion = insulting my person.
The UK is rapidly becoming unhabitable.

Nick said...

The law was actually changed, quite deliberately, from 'racially aggravated' to 'racially or religiously aggravated' ... and what's more, this was done as a direct response to 9/11.

After seeing those planes smash into those buildings, our government was terribly concerned about an anti-Islamic 'backlash' don't you know.

Here's the link.

peter said...

The British government seem to be leading us down a road to Balkanisation.I seem to remember the government making the IRA an illegal organisation.The toffs in Westminster thought that would stop any future problems!They were wrong.These "Spanish inquisition" laws will eventually lead to the EDL using "flash mobs" with no police notification.They have tried to stay within the law by involving the political UK police.And have been rewarded with the same treatment as soviet
dissidents.With a flash mob the police cannot direct manpower to a specific city area.(The UK police could not cope without bringing in officers from other forces,for which they need weeks of prior notification)And as there is no police liaison,there is no "leader" to arrest.They have to rely on snatch squads to arrest anyone.The government is taking a big risk,but they are worried.

4Symbols said...

In hoc signo vinces

@Nick,

"The law was actually changed, quite deliberately, from 'racially aggravated' to 'racially or religiously aggravated' ... and what's more, this was done as a direct response to 9/11."

As far as I can remember the political will was for the original act to have the religiously aggravated offence. One of the amusing arguments for the omission was that it would result in the mass arrest of football supporters indulging in sectarian chants.

As with most totalitarian laws they are formed and developed in the political mind long before the excuse or opportunity arrives to impose them.

The ultraliberal totalitarian laws of Thatcherism are coming home to roost.

Anonymous said...

"I'm afraid I went by my own experience under Scottish law, which is slightly different."

Scottish law has a unique place in contemporary US history. At the end of President Clinton's impeachment trial, Senator Arlen Specter(R)PA, chose to use the Scottish legal term Not Proven, instead of guilty or not guilty.

Anonymous said...

"The ultraliberal totalitarian laws of Thatcherism are coming home to roost." ?????

Green Infidel said...

"A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour...

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress."


By that account, the anarchist/anti-capitalist/"student" protesters, the Muslims burning poppies and with "Islam will conquer Rome" signs, along with Richard Dawkins and most football fans are guilty of this offence.

They have all used "abusive or insulting words or behaviour" with intent to "cause a person harassment, alarm or distress".

So why have a law under which a sizeable section of the British public is liable to arrest? Unless it really is meant to have as wide a definition as possible, in order to ensure that the few "undesirables" that the British government wants to target are caught in the net?

KingJanIIISobieski said...

Nick - that's fine by me. If there's anyway for them to get a conviction they will try.

Could I ask you about recent case where a man at an EDL demo was convicted for saying things that would cause distress, when only police officers would have been able to hear. I believe he represented himself (fool for a client) in the case. Surely a lawyer in that situation would have had at least had one of the officers involved on the witness stand, to see if they were offended.

4Symbols said...

In hoc signo vinces

"So why have a law under which a sizeable section of the British public is liable to arrest?"

The historical background and context to this law is Thatcher's Britain, this was legislation sold as being in the interests of public order but was in fact to be used to clampdown on political dissent - the legislation speaks for itself.

The enemey those who would challenge the political elites grip on power, the multicultural project in the UK is not only a project of the left it is also a project of the conservative political elite.

It is a practice in some parts of the country, when two travellers have but one horse, which, like the national purse, will not carry double, that the one mounts and rides two or three miles ahead, and then ties the horse to a gate and walks on. When the second traveller arrives he takes the horse, rides on, and passes his companion a mile or two, and ties again, and so on- Ride and tie. - Thomas Paine.

Nick said...

King Jan,

Apologies in advance for the short response, but I've just gotten home after a long spell at work & I'm heading up the wooden hill very shortly.

I do recall hearing about the case you refer to. I think that the offence in question there would be defined in Section 5 (as opposed to Section 4A) of the Public Order Act 1986.

So far as I can remember, the accused tried to put forward an argument in line with sub-section 3(a) of Section 5 (he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress) but this didn't work out too well.

I came across another case recently, which had a happy outcome for the fellow who was arrested under the same legislation (see link.)