Freedom of speech: What are my rights?

The row was sparked after the student made comments about halal meat in seminars at the University of central Lancashire
The row was sparked after the student made comments about halal meat in seminars at the University of central Lancashire
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The case of a student banned from classes at the University of Central Lancashire for comments about halal meat and Islam has stirred debate.

Sebastian Walsh is not allowed back to classes at the Preston-based university after a series of comments he made in a seminar about halal meat and the 'Islamisation of the UK'.

READ MORE Preston UKIP is dispute with UCLan over student's halal comments

His case has been taken up by the UK Independence Party, which has demanded that he be allowed back, citing his freedom of speech.

But in law, what rights do UK citizens have to freedom of speech?

The main law that protects free speech is a European one. Under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, people are granted the right to freedom of expression.

Protection under Article 10 extends to the expression of views that may shock, disturb or offend the deeply-held beliefs of others. the article also states that any restrictions on freedom of expression must always be clearly set out in law, necessary in a democratic society for a legitimate aim, and proportionate.

Under UK law, the right to freedom of speech is protected under common law, but this is more open to interpretation that the European Convention.

However, freedom of expression does have some limits - the main one being to protect others from violence, hatred and discrimination.

In particular, freedom of expression does not protect statements that discriminate against or harass, or incite violence or hatred against, other persons and groups, particularly by reference to their race, religious belief, gender or sexual orientation.

The convention takes context into account, and a wide degree of tolerance is accorded to political speech and debate during election campaigns.