The decision by the Court of Appeal to overturn the public order conviction of a young suspect who repeatedly said ‘fuck’ while being searched for drugs, was described as unacceptable by police representatives last night. They claimed the ruling would undermine respect for officers. [They probably meant undermining 'fear' of officers ,who can currently hand out their own brand of 'justice' using the Public Order Act'].
Overturning Denzel Cassius Harvey’s conviction, Mr Justice Bean said officers were so regularly on the receiving end of the rather commonplace expletive that it was unlikely to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.
Harvey was fined ฃ50 for using strong language while they attempted to search him for cannabis in Hackney, east London. He told officers:
Fuck this man. I ain’t been smoking nothing. When the search revealed no drugs, he continued: Told you, you wouldn’t find fuck all. Asked whether he had a middle name, he replied: No, I’ve already fucking told you so.
Magistrates at Thames Youth Court found him guilty in March last year after hearing that Harvey’s expletives were uttered in a public area while a group of teenage bystanders gathered around.
Appealing against his conviction, Harvey claimed that none of those within earshot, especially the two hardened police officers, would have been upset by his swearing.
Mr Justice Bean agreed that the expletives he used were heard
all too frequently by officers on duty and were unlikely to have greatly disturbed them. The judge added that it was quite impossible to infer that the group of young people who were in the vicinity were likely to have experienced alarm or distress at hearing these rather commonplace swear words used.
Peter Smyth, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said:
If judges are going to say you can swear at police then everyone is going to start doing it. I’m not saying that police officers are going to go and hide in the corner and cry if someone tells them to ‘F’ off, but verbal abuse is not acceptable and this is the wrong message to be sending out.