Hatred against a group of people because of their colour, race, nationality, or ethnic or national origins. Hatred against a religion is thus not directly covered (see *blasphemy). The Public Order Act 1986 contains six offences of stirring up racial hatred, which all require proof of words, behaviour, or material that are threatening, abusive, or insulting; there must be an *intention of stirring up racial hatred or the likelihood that this will happen. All offences are punishable with up to two yearsí imprisonment and/or a fine and require the Attorney Generalís consent before proceedings can be instituted.
The offences are as follows. (1) Using *threatening behaviour or words or displaying threatening written material. This offence may be committed in a public or private place, but it is a defence for the accused person to prove (see *burden of proof) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that his behaviour or display would be seen or heard by someone outside that or another dwelling. Even if the intention to stir up racial hatred is not proved, the accused can still be guilty of the offence if he is proved to have either intended his behaviour or material to be threatening or been aware that it might be so. The offence does not extend to behaviour or written material used solely for inclusion in a radio or television programme. A constable may *arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing this offence.
(2) Publishing or distributing to the public threatening written material. It is a defence for the accused to prove that he was unaware of the materialís contents and did not suspect that it was threatening.
(3) Presenting or directing the public performance of a play that involves the use of threatening words or behaviour. The actual performers do not commit or *aid or abet the offence, and recordings or broadcasts of plays can only involve the offence if outsiders attend. It is a defence for the accused to prove that he was unaware and had no reason to suspect that (a) the performance would involve use of the threatening words, or (b) the offending words were threatening, or (c) racial hatred would be likely to be stirred up during the performance.
(4) Distributing, showing, or playing a recording of visual images or sound to the public. It is a defence for the accused to prove that he was unaware of the recordingís content and did not, and had no reason to, suspect that it was threatening.
(5) Providing, producing, or directing a radio or television programme involving threatening images or sounds. The offence is limited to broadcasts by satellite, community radio services, cable, pirate stations, and the like; it does not extend to BBC or IBA programmes. It is a defence if the accused can prove either of the following: (a) that he was unaware and had no reason to suspect that the offending material was threatening; or (b) that he was unaware and had no reason to suspect that (i) the programme would involve the offending material and that it was not reasonably practicable for him to remove the material or (ii) the programme would be broadcast or that racial hatred would be likely to be stirred up by it. Defence b(ii) is unavailable to those providing the broadcasting service. A broadcaster who uses the offending words can also commit the offence; defences (a) and b(ii) are available to him.
(6) Possessing threatening written material or a sound or visual recording with a view to its being distributed or broadcast, or (written material only) published, or (a recording only) shown or played. The offence does not extend to the BBC or IBA, and defence (a) above is available. The police are given entry and search powers in connection with the last offence.
Courts can order forfeiture of offending material after convictions.
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