This story from the UK just goes to show that you don’t even have to say the “wrong” thing to fall on the wrong side of offensive speech laws.
As the Daily Mail reports, Rob Hughes, a Christian preacher, was arrested in 2013 after a member of the public complained to police of his ‘homophobic and offensive speech’.
The problem? Aside from the absurdity of complaining to the police for offensive speech, the complaint itself was completely made up. In Hughes’ own words:
I was interviewed by the police, they asked me a number of questions – “why were you out”, “what were you saying”, “did you say what the people said” – I said “no”, of course. I was polite and courteous.
I did say that “you have my dictaphone in your possession, you can listen to the recording, the audio, if you like”. They dismissed that. Not sure why, but I just continued with the interview, finished the questions.
Remarkably, despite having a recording of the incident, Essex police still required 11 hours to dismiss the unsubstantiated complaint and conclude that no offensive speech had taken place.
Even more remarkable is that the police saw this event as a reasonable use of police resources at all.