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Abusive language alone cannot found conviction

In an important judgment in Harvey v Director of Public Prosecutions 2011 LTL 18/11/2011, Mr Justice Bean allowed an appeal against conviction for an offence under section 5 Public Order Act 1986. The appellant had been convicted by Magistrates after the Court heard he used the word 'fuck' three times whilst being searched by police officers. Neither of the officers gave evidence that they had been caused harassment, alarm or distress and there were no bystanders other than the appellant's friends. Mr Justice Bean concluded that the Magistrates had been wrong to infer that harassment, alarm or distress could be caused simply by the use of abusive language, especially when directed at police officers, where there was no express evidence to support that finding.


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