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Freedom of Expression

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  1. Introduction
  2. Freedom of speech is vital in democracy
  3. Handyside v United Kingdom (1976) ECHR
  4. R v Gibson [1990] 595 3 WLR
  5. Conclusion

Freedom of expression is outlined in article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights and is arguably one of the most important rights that we are granted by the Convention. Through this right we are able to promote truth, democracy and self-fulfilment, which collectively promote the idea of teleological rights that aim to deliver good to society. One of the reasons the right is listed in the Convention is to enhance the liberty and autonomy of individuals.

The concept of truth is very important when considering liberty and autonomy as it enables us to develop a market place of ideas, which are based upon the truthful factual views that have been put forward by the individual. By collating the views of others we are able to enhance our own individual personal autonomy by considering what other people believe, thus enhancing our own choices and knowledge in order to make a decision that we feel is right.

[...] Art.10(1) ECHR. Art.10(2) ECHR. ECtHR Handyside v United Kingdom. Handyside v United Kingdom (1979 80) 1 EHRR 737, page 743. Handyside v United Kingdom (1979 80) 1 EHRR 737, page 744. Handyside v United Kingdom (1979 80) 1 EHRR 737, page 744. Handyside v United Kingdom (1979 80) 1 EHRR 737, page 745. Freedom of Expression. [...]


[...] From the article it is clear in the way that it is worded, that freedom of expression is subject to many limits. In order to understand the laws on obscenity and Indecency within the United Kingdom, it is best to look to the case law that has arisen as a result of the right stated in Article 10 ECHR. Handyside v United Kingdom (1976) ECHR This case was heard before the European Court of Human Rights[6] existed. The case was about a publisher who was charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and 1964 for having in his possession ?obscene books entitled The Little Red Schoolbook for publication for gain[7].' The books were seized and later destroyed and the applicant was fined and ordered to pay costs. [...]


[...] R v Gibson [1990] WLR This was a Court of Appeal case that concerned earrings that had been displayed in an art gallery, that were made from a freeze-dried human foetus of three or four months gestation. The appellant at first instance was charged of the offence at common law of offending public decency. The Court of Appeal considered the Mens rea of the offence, so the court had to decide whether or not it was relevant that the defendant intended to outrage public decency or appreciated that it would run the risk of doing so. [...]


[...] R v British Broadcasting Corporation ex parte Prolife Alliance This is one of the more recent cases to date, that has been heard. The court when considering the case discussed article 10 the freedom of expression. In this case the claimants were a political party that were opposed to abortion. The party was entitled to broadcast a Party Election Broadcast[15] as part of their campaign. It submitted its tape to the broadcasters, which showed an honest and unsensational view of what went on during an abortion. The footage showed clear images of a foetus in a mangled and mutilated state. [...]


[...] On this basis how can a real life scenario be offensive? The same could be argued in the case of The Little Red School Book this was a book of fact and not fiction, so it goes further to show how can a realistic portrayal of fact be in any way indecent or cause outrage? The right to be offensive is not included in Article 10 and it should not be as it is unnecessary in a democratic society. However the tolerance of what the public will regard as an outrage on grounds of obscenity and indecency is wholly down to the individual's personal opinions and morals. [...]

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