Replies From MP's

Replies to MP's regarding count dankula and freedom of speech

Here is a map of the UK showing an overview of responses made by Callum Darragh.
Due to the increasing number of replies it is possible we may not see or accdentaly not include a reply. If you notice anyone missing please let us know!

  • Yellow: Pro-Free Speach
  • Red: Anti-Free Speech
  • Black: Speaker of the House
  • Orange: Not yet Responded
  • Red: Party Stock replies
  • Click the image to view the large static version.
    Click here to go to the dynamic map
    Keep sending Jason Barker and Callum Darragh your responses so we can compile the data. Thank you!

    Copy-Paste replies recieved from Labour MP's Read Labour Stock Letters
    Copy paste replies from labour MP's click the Labour logo to read the collcted letters.
    It appears our letter wrighting campaign was noticed and many MP's are simple sending stock replies or stock replies with very small edits







    Mp's who replied this way:

  • Matthew Penycook - MP for Greenwich and Woolwich
  • Mike Amesbury - MP for Weaver Vale
  • Emma Lewell-Buck - MP for South Shields
  • Preet Kaur Gill - MP for Edgbaston
  • Afzal Khan - MP for Manchester, Gorton
  • Lucy Powell - MP for Manchester, Central
  • Ben Bradshaw - MP for Exeter
  • Alex Cunningham - MP for Stockton North
  • Kevan Jones - MP for North Durham
  • Gavin Shuker - MP for Luton South
  • Faisal Rashid - MP for Warrington South
  • Ian Murray - MP for Edinburgh South
  • Gerald Jones - MP for Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney
  • Viendra Sharma - MP for Ealing, Southall
  • Reply from David Warburton - Conservative MP for Somerton and Frome
    Dear Richard Thank you for this, and I very much agree with your concerns. While the video in question was in fairly poor taste, this should not be a criminal matter, and the inherently subjective criteria involved clearly problematic.
    I have written directly to the Lord Chancellor for clarification on this; please bear with me while I await a response, and I will certainly be in touch again as soon as I have received a reply.
    Best wishes
    Yours, David

    Reply from James Frith - Labour MP for Bury North
    Hello,
    Thank you for writing to me to express your concerns about free speech and the case of Markus Meechan.

    I defend the right to freedom of speech but believe that with that freedom comes certain responsibilities. The judgement the court has made will have considered this balance. Given the content of the post and the message I am not surprised by the judgement.

    The information I have on it I find grossly offensive and the message was likely deemed as incitement to violence or hate crime. I do not share your view that this is just a free speech issue.

    Set aside matters of taste or opinion - and on both grounds I find this is disgustingly bad taste and desperately stupid, not just offensive - the man needs educating on the true horrors of the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism like this is a racist and hateful crime and must not be tolerated.

    I'm sorry we do not agree on this issue but I do thank you for taking the time to write to me and express your views. Although we may not agree in this instance, I always appreciate hearing from constituents and discussing issues of concern.

    Best wishes,
    James

    Upon our member sending a follow up letter asking for clarification this letter was recieved back:

    Reply from Kevin Peel assistant
    Hello Danny,

    Thanks for your e-mail. I think James made his view on this clear in his response to your initial message.

    Free speech has always had caveats. Publishing material or making comments which incite racial hatred can be deemed to be a hate crime. Other exceptions to free speech include grounds of national security, restrictions on the grounds of public safety, the protection of health and morals,and restrictions to prevent crime and disorder. Responsible use of free expression has always been expected and enshrined in law. The courts are there to determine when the line is crossed, as they did in this instance.

    Kevin

    Kevin Peel
    Senior Parliamentary Assistant

    Reply from Matt Rodda - Labour MP for Reading East
    Dear Lauran,

    Thank you for being in touch, and for making your thoughts known on this issue.

    To tell you the truth, I was not aware of this case prior to your email. I have to say that, having now watched the video, I support the action being taken against this individual.

    I think the repeated expression 'do you want to gas the Jews?' is in extremely poor taste - to say the very least. There is a definite line between the right to free speech, and offensive language directed at an ethnic group that suffered possibly the worst genocide in human history.

    Whilst I am pleased that you felt able to contact me to raise your own views on this issue, therefore, I am afraid that I will not be supporting any campaign to reverse Mr. Meechan's guilty verdict.

    Yours sincerely,

    Matt Rodda
    Member of Parliament for Reading East

    House of Commons
    London
    SW1A 0AA
    Tel: 07746 642938
    mattroddampoffice@gmail.com
    matt.rodda.mp@parliament.uk

    Upon further enquiry by one of our members he replied

    Dear Lauran,

    Thanks for following up.,

    I think the difference in this case was the repeated use of an anti-Semitic slur - which was, to my (admittedly limited) knowledge, not deployed in any of the popular sketch shows you list below.,

    I respect free speech, and will fight for it whenever appropriate. I also have no issue with mocking past dictators. Healthy satire is a staple of the British sense of humour.,

    However, I reject anti-Semitism and other forms of racial hatred outright (whether intended as a 'joke' or not). This particular instance perpetuates a form of racial prejudice, which is the point where it transgresses the divide between free speech and race hate.,

    Yours sincerely,,

    Matt Rodda
    Member of Parliament for Reading East
    Reply from Amnesty International

    Dear Paul,

    Thank you for your email.

    The right to freedom of opinion and expression should be one of the cornerstones of any society. This right includes "the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19). For more than forty years, Amnesty International (AI) has defended this right against attempts by governments across the globe to stifle religious dissent, political opposition and artistic creativity. ,

    However, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute -- neither for the creators of material nor their critics. It carries responsibilities and it may, therefore, be subject to restrictions in the name of safeguarding the rights of others. In particular, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence cannot be considered legitimate exercise of freedom of expression. Under international standards, such "hate speech" should be prohibited by law.,

    You can read more about freedom of expression on our website
    at;
    https://www.amnesty.org.uk/free-speech-freedom-expression-human-right

    If you have any further queries, or if we can help in any other way, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

    Kind regards,

    Supporter Communications Team
    Amnesty International UK Section
    The Human Rights Action Centre, 17 - 25 New Inn Yard, London
    EC2A 3EA Email: sct@amnesty.org.uk
    Tel: +44 (0) 20 7033 1777
    www.amnesty.org.uk

    Reply from Jonathan Lord - Conservative MP for Woking

    Dear Sam (if I may),

    Delighted you've become a member. Many thanks. You'll understand that I deal with any and all party political matters from my local Conservative office, but I do hope and trust that you have received your membership card and a suitable welcome letter.

    To the matter in hand: I basically agree with what you say in your email. Depending on where you draw the line you could arrest any TV or theatre executives who have the temerity to re-show/put on the stage 'Springtime for Hitler'.

    Having said that, I have now googled this case and it seems that one of the things he taught the dog to do was to react to the phrase "gas the Jews", which really is highly, highly offensive and completely uncalled for. I also presume that he then posted this online rather than just keeping it as a private 'joke' for his girlfriend.

    These are very difficult waters to navigate...but I am a great believer in free speech (especially in the context of comedy) and would ultimately place more emphasis on that side of the scales.

    I therefore agree that the Communications Act 2003 should be looked at again.

    With best wishes.

    Kind regards,

    Jonathan Lord

    Jonathan Lord MP
    Member of Parliament for Woking
    House of Commons
    London, SW1A 0AA
    Tel. 020 7219 6913
    jonathan.lord.mp@parliament.uk

    Upon further corespondance with our member asking him to seek clarification from the Lord Chancelor he replied:

    Yes - agreed - and, yes, I am going to write to the Lord Chancellor about this.

    Thanks.

    Kind regards,

    Jonathan

    Reply from Michelle Donelan - Conservitive MP for Chippenham

    Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your email - I can understand why this matter does concern you. I have copied in my casework Holly to inform you of my upcoming Open surgeries.

    Kind regards,
    Michelle Donelan MP

    This MP did later on, have the places and dates of her Open surgeries sent to our member.

    Reply from Royston Smith - Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen

    Dear Mr Palin

    Thank you for your email.

    In short, I absolutely agree with you. If you see the lies and abuse I have personally directed to me this attempt at a joke is trivial in comparison. I have written to the Minister but I think it is a devolved issue.

    Best wishes

    Royston

    Royston Smith
    royston@roystonsmith.co.uk

    Reply from Justin Tomlinson - Conservitive MP for North Swindon

    Dear Tyler,

    Thank you for your email, it is appreciated.

    I'm not aware of this individual case so it is difficult for me to comment.

    It is so important that we strike the right balance between free speech and ensuring that nobody incites racial hatred.

    If you have concerns over the communications act, I'd be happy to relay these to the Minister on your behalf.

    Kind regards, Justin

    Justin Tomlinson

    North Swindon Conservative MP

    Reply from Louise Haigh - Labour MP for Sheffield

    Dear Mr Goodier

    Thank you for your email

    'Offence' is well defined in the criminal justice system and in case law and used as the basis for a number of offences. It is important that the online world is policed in the same way as the offline, and whilst i cannot comment on individual cases, i think it is vital that the police take the rise in the far right and its associated hate crimes seriously.

    Yours sincerely

    Louise Haigh MP
    Member of parliment for Sheffield

    Reply from Matt Handcock - Conservitive MP for West Suffolk - Secretary for Culture

    Thank you for contacting me about hate speach laws and your concerns reguarding the freedom of speach.

    Britain has a long standing reputation for freedom of speach and freedom of religeon, within the law. I want to make absolutely clear, however, that there is no place in Britain for bigotry, racism or anti-Semetic attacks. Those who commit hate crimes should expect to be punished with the full force of the law.

    David Cameron who spear-headed the Government's Counter-Extremism Strategy, claimed that "one of the greatest threats we face is the scourge of extremism from those who want to divide us. We see it in sucking displays of neo-Nazism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and, of course Islamist extremeism." With reguards to the Government Strategy, there will be strong safeguards in place to ensure powers to stop extremist activity are only used in the most serious cases. They will be designed so that they can only be used where it is necessary to prevent the activities of groups and individuals who pose a clear threat to the safety of individuals or scociety more generaly. Let me reassure you that they will not be used against privatly held views or people expressing their religeous beliefs, nor will they curtail the democratic right to protest or limit free speach. The government has been clear it will allways protect our rights.

    We should not tolerate people who preach intolerance. In the case of Mark Meechan, an extremist position, that was thaught to promote anit-Semitism, was taken. Additionaly, it may be mentioned that the Government does not make any arrests, but these are made by the police. Lastly, the Government continues to respect any decisions made by our independant courts.

    Thank you again for contacting me about your concerns regarding the freedom of speach.
    Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any further concerns.

    Yours scincearly


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image

    Reply from David Drew - Labour MP for Stroud - Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

    On the issue I learned a long time ago never to comment on a court case - particularly one in a country with a different court system - unless I had taken a particular interest in the case and read all the court judgements and not just handpicked highlights.
    I shall definitely not therefore be commenting on this case other than to say that if this man treated an animal in this way he should have been prosecuted for animal cruelty.

    Reply from Paul Flynn - Labour MP for Newport West

    Dear Thomas,

    There has to be some limit to what is acceptable in the name of free speech. For example deformation of character, encitement to racial hatred etc. are rightly deemed unacceptable. I understand that the video to which you refer was not simply a poor joke where a dog gives a Nazi salute, but a non-stop repetition of a deeply offensive and inflamatory phrase.

    All MPs have to make a judgement on the issues they pursue. My Parliamentary activities are overstretched at the moment and I am not sympathetic to this case. Thank you for letting have your views.

    Best wishes,

    Paul Flynn

    M.P for Newport West,
    A.S dros Orllewin Casnewydd

    Reply from Nigel Evans - Conservative MP for Ribble Valley

    Thank you for your recent email about the case of Mark Meechan.

    I can appreciate your concern on this issue, I too, beleve that freedom of speach and expression is one of the backbones of British democracy. Mr Meechan's actions would be deemed offensive to manny, and humorous to some, and although freedom of speech comes with responsibility, I will allways champion the right for my constituents to express their views and opinions.

    I can assure you that I am following this case closeley, and will ensure that I am updated on any further developments regarding the Comunications Act of 2003, and any planned repeal of clauses the Government intends to make.

    Thank you again for contacting my about this importaint issue.


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image

    Reply from Gary Streeter- Conservative MP for South West Devon

    Many thanks for your email. I agree that we are in danger of squashing freedom of speech which is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.

    I am not aware of the person or incident that you draw to my attention and I will look into it more fully and thank you for drawing this to my attention.

    Kind regards,
    Gary Streeter

    Reply from Bob Stewart - Conservative MP for Beckenham

    Thank you for your e mail which is essentially about the right of free speech. I will give my views on your two questions.

    On the first I think jokes - made as jokes - should not be punishable under the law. They may be offensive to many but should not require a court to make that point in my view.

    On the second I think there should be some limitations on free speech where the intent is to hurt someone else hugely. Of course people can argue about such words as 'some', 'intent', 'hurt'and 'hugely' but I do think people should not have the right to do damage - normally psychological in nature but damaging a lot often. For instance, I think cyber bullying can achieve this. Look at what happens to some children who suffer it.

    The real difficulty is, of course, defining such matters precisely and also determining what happens to those that offend. With regard to the man in Glasgow I think being taken to court was daft as he clearly was having a joke - distasteful as it may have been.

    Reply from Barbara Keeley - Labour MP for Worsley & Eccles South

    Dear Joe Bailey

    Thank you for your note.

    It seems that 'Count Dankula' was convicted of a hate crime, for teaching a dog to make a Nazi salute and to respond to a profoundly anti-semetic phrase that he taught the dog to recognise.

    Having read this information I do not agree with your statement that people should be "free to make jokes" about such matters.

    The Holocaust is not a laughing matter and i would never agree with anyone makeing jokes about the slaugher of sex million people, mainly jewish people, but also outher groups of people in Germany.

    This is a hate crime, not just a joke that was tasteless or insensitive.

    Given that i disagree with your view on this quite profoundly, I am not prepared to raise this issue in the House of Commons as you suggest.

    I hope this helps to clarify my view on this issue.


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image

    Reply from Andrew Mitchell - Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield

    Thank you for your recent email regarding the recent trial of Markus Meechan.

    Freedom of expression is a universal human right. Civil society is all about free people and freedom of speach is vital in scociety. I am encouraged that procedures are in place to uphold this right.

    Extreme speech can challenge and offend individuals' intimately-held religious beliefs and convictions. The reacations to cartoons satirising the prophet Muhammad, to burnings of the Koran, and to offensive anti-Islam videos can make it appear that an intractable conflict exists between freedom of speech and freedom of religion among other things.

    Whilst we do have laws protecting individuals from hate speech, i appreciate your view that current legislation is in need of updateing. Markus Meechan did not physically commit a crime, but the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility. the video he made contained anti-Semitic content and is considered grossly offensive to many Jewish people, with the court deciding that Mr Meechan knew the material was offensive. The judge can now only decide whether he recieves a custodial sentance.

    I do hope this goes some way to clarifying matters in this respect.


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image

    Reply from Bim-Afolami - Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden

    Dear Mr Stapleton

    Mr Afolami has asked me to thank you for your email. He understands your concerns on this matter and has already taken up the issues raised on behalf of other constituents of his and will be in touch as soon as he receives a reply.

    Regards

    Fiona Parker
    Senior Secretary to Bim Afolami MP

    Reply from Philip Davies - Conservative MP for Shipley

    Dear Mr Lawrence

    Thank you for your email.

    I share you concern about the erosion of freedom of speech - indeed I raised it in the House of Commons today.

    Best wishes

    Philip

    Philip Davies MP

    And indeed he did bring it up before there was even time to get a email to him

    Reply from Rosie Winterton - Labour MP for Doncaster Central

    Dear James

    Thank you for your email of 20 March, in which you ask for the repeal of section 127 of the comunications Ace 2003, which makes it an offence to send a message by means of a public electronic communications network (including the internet) if it is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing.

    I have noted your comments in relation to a particular cae, and your concerns that what counts as 'grossly offensive' is vague. I hope you understand that as an MP i am not able to interfere in the due process of law and would not wish to comment on an indiviual cas, particualy where i do not have all the information that would have been placed before the court when makeing their decision.

    I do not believe that this legislation should be repealed. This offence could apply, for example, where sexual messages or messages seeking a sexual responce are sent to a child by some form or electronic comunication, such as text, e-mail or phone.

    Thank you for writing to me and for letting me know your views on this matter.

    Yours sincerely


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image

    Reply from Andrew Percy - Conservitive MP Brigg & Goole and the Isle of Axholme

    Dear Neil,

    Thanks for your email to Andrew. We will raise this issue with the relevant Minister at the Home Office for a response to the points you have raised. Responses tend to take around 30 days to receive; however, I'll be back in touch as soon as we receive further information.

    Best wishes,

    Kassim

    Kassim Qureshi

    Kassim Qureshi is the parlimentary assistaint for Andrew Percy

    Reply from Ronnie Campbell - Labour MP for Blyth Valley

    Thank you for your letter dated 20 March 2018 reguarding your request that i seek to repeal section 127 of the Comunications Act 2003.

    With regards to your request, I will not be raising this in the House of Commons.

    If the Act was repealed, this would then give carte blanch to individuals who have a mind for hate crime, therefore no Act in place then this would get out of control.

    Mike Meechan, I feel is very offensive and he does not show respect.

    I have enclosed a print off with regards to the joke.

    Yours Sincerely,


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image and the seccond image to see the attatchment that was also sent with this reply




    Reply from Michael Ellis - Conservitive MP for North Northamptonshire

    Dear Richard,

    Thank you for your email.

    I would firstly like to reassure you that this Government is a vociferous defender of freedom of speech both at home and abroad.

    For example, late last year the Foreign Secretary announced that we would be investing in freedom of expression projects around the world and also the former Universities Minister called on the Office for Students (OfS) to champion free speech in universities.

    In this particular case, I am aware that Mr Meechan was found guilty of breaching Section 127 of the 2003 UK Communications Act. Section 127 (1) makes it an offence to send, or cause to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. The offence does not require an intention to cause anxiety or distress to be proven, and the message does not have to be sent to a specific person. Section 127 (2) contains a separate offence of misusing a public communications network for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, either by sending or causing to be sent a false message or by persistently making use of the network. The maximum penalty for offences under Section 127 is six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.?

    From what I understand, Mr Meechan was teaching his girlfriend's pet dog to imitate a Nazi salute following a number of vile, anti-Semitic comments, which is certainly no laughing matter.

    I would like to thank you for your support for the Conservative Party but also gently point out that as the MP for Northampton North I assist all of my constituents equally regardless of political persuasion.

    You have mentioned that you may not vote for a Conservative at the next election, however I would just caution that this will increase the likelihood of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, an outcome that would be disastrous for this country.

    Jeremy Corbyn's spending plans would mean more borrowing, a higher deficit and more debt. Labour's Shadow Chancellor has even admitted that they are planning for a run on the pound if they get elected. Mr Corbyn's views have not changed since he entered politics and his economic policies would see us return to the turmoil of the 1970's, when we saw the 83% tax rate decimate businesses and discourage investment in Britain.

    Moreover, as you have indicated your support for freedom of speech, I would like to make you aware that whilst the Conservatives are defending this very important principle, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party risk trying to restrict the freedom of the press. You can read about Labour's position on Press freedom laws here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/press-freedom-laws-at-risk-from-labour-fbb2mt27k.

    I hope this has clarified my thoughts on the matter.

    Kind Regards,

    Michael

    Kind Regards, Richard White

    Reply from Jonathan Edwards - Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

    Thank you for your correspondence regarding the Communications Act of 2003.

    Your strong feelings on this matter are noted and I will bear your comments in mind should this issue be raised in parliament.

    Many thanks once again for contacting me. Please don't hesitate to do so again if I can be of further assistance in the future.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jonathan Edwards MP/AS

    Reply from Derek Thomas - Conservative MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (St Ives)

    Thanks Henry

    I will. Thank you for flagging this.

    Regards

    Derek Thomas MP
    For West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (St Ives)

    Reply from Desmond Swayne - Conservative MP for New Forest West

    Thanks, the fundamental cornerstone of our constitution is that judicial proceedings are independent of Parliament, if politicians were able to interfere with summary justice then we would indeed soon end up in a Stalinist state. If he the Count feels he was unjustly treated then he can appeal to a higher court.
    I wasn't there and nothing is ever quite as reported, but I rather suspect that his conviction has more to do with the "gas the jews" slogan that he circulated on social media, than the dog's trick. I am sorry to disagree with you, but it seems as if he was asking for it.


    This reply was received by email - however it was in such a format that I believe people should see for them selves as to what it looked like.

    Reply from Ian Lucas - Labour MP for Wrexham

    Dear Cameron ********, Thank you for emailing me to express your concern over the sentencing of Markus Meechan.

    If Mr Meechan's defence is that he wanted to annoy his girlfriend, he did not need to post the video on a public platform. The video was in very poor taste and should not have been posted on YouTube. Reluctant as I am to intervene in cases restricting free speech, I cannot really see why the posting of this was justified.

    Yours sincerely,

    Ian Lucas M.P.
    Labour Member of Parliament for Wrexham

    Reply from Caroline Flint - Labour MP for

    Dear Mr Deakin

    Mark Meechan Court Verdict
    Thank you for your recent correspondance regarding the recent court case surrounding the Youtuber Mark Meechan and the subsequent guily verdict given to him on 20 March 2018.

    I have written to the Rt Hon David Gauke MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, on your behalf and will write to you again when i have a reply.

    Yours sincerely


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image.

    Reply from Robert Courts - Conservitive MP for Witney & West Oxfordshire

    Dear Adam,

    Thank you for your email and I appreciate your concerns.

    I am afraid I am not fully aware of the details surrounding the case you highlight and it is therefore difficult for me pass comment on this specific sentencing. What I can say is that I am a firm defender of free speech and my instincts are always in favour of letting people voice their views and make jokes, no matter how offensive they may be.

    I know there is deep concern amongst colleagues over the issue of free speech, particularly at universities, and I would welcome a debate about how we can do more to uphold this most vital of freedoms.

    Many thanks again for taking the time and trouble to make me aware of your views, which I have noted.

    With best wishes,

    Robert

    Robert Courts MP
    Member of Parliament for Witney & West Oxfordshire

    Reply from Catherine McKinnell - Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North

    Dear Mr English,

    Thank you for your email.

    It is not appropriate for me to comment on an ongoing legal matter (I understand Mr Meechan is still awaiting sentencing, and may be in the process of submitting an appeal), however, I have written to the relevant Government Minister to share your concerns on this issue.

    I will of course let you know as soon as I have received a response.

    Yours sincerely

    Catherine

    Reply from Damian Green - Conservative MP for Ashford

    Dear Mr Bromley,

    Thank you for contacting me about Mark Meechan.

    Mr Meechan was rightly punished, and I welcome the court's decision to penalise him for teaching his girlfriend's dogs tricks whilst using hateful words.

    Any hostility or harassment directed towards the Jewish community is completely unacceptable and I enormously welcome the Government's Hate Crime Action Plan which will tackle antisemitism wherever it occurs. The Plan will also increase reporting of hate crimes and provide stronger support for victims.

    The Government continues to work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on antisemitism and the Cross-Government Working Group on antisemitism to ensure that the voices of the Jewish community are heard. It is also supporting the work of Streetwise which challenges antisemitism in schools.

    Britain has a long standing reputation for freedom of speech and freedom of religion,within the law. I want to make absolutely clear, however, that there is no place in Britain for bigotry, racism or antisemitic attacks. Those who commit hate crimes should expect to be punished with the full force of the law

    Reply from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson - Democratic Unionist Party MP for Lagan Valley

    Dear Steven

    Thank you for your recent correspondence by email in which you have highlighted a number of cases where the UK authorities have taken action that has inhibited the capacity of individuals to engage in freedom of expression and free speech in this country.

    I must say that I am increasingly concerned about the restrictions that are being imposed on freedom of expression in the United Kingdom and this is impacting on people of faith who wish to freely express their views. It is also impacting on people who take a more conservative approach to social and moral issues as well as to economic affairs.

    Upon leaving the European Union, the UK Government has indicated that they intend to bring forward proposals for a new Bill of Rights in this country. Together with some of my Parliamentary colleagues, we are examining ways in which the laws of freedom of expression and freedom of belief can be strengthened in this country so as to prevent unreasonable action being taken again individuals simply because of their political viewpoint or their religious belief. Of course we must tackle hate speech and deal with intolerance in our society but there is a balance to be struck and I do believe that at time the UK authorities are over reacting in terms of limiting freedom of expression in our country. At times, their approach to this issue is very unbalanced and unfair and there is a tendency to ignore some of the more extreme comments of left-wing activists, whilst focusing much more on those of a conservative disposition.

    Thank you for taking the time to be in touch with me about this important issue. Please be assured that I will continue to value the need to protect freedom of expression in this country.

    With kind regards,

    Yours sincerely

    RT HON SIR JEFFREY DONALDSON MP
    Lagan Valley

    Reply from Richard Benyon - Conservative MP for Newbury

    Dear Mr Roseblade

    Thank you fr your e-mail about 'Count Dankula' who has been convicted by a Scottish Court of causeing gross offence.

    I realise that you beleve the You Tube video in question was intended as a joke, albeit in extremely poor taste, however any hostility or harrasment directed towards the Jewish comunity is completly unacceptable. That is why i welcome the Government's Hate Crime Action Plan which with tackle antisemitism wherever it occurs. The Plan will also increase reporting of hate crimes and provide stronger support for victims.

    The Government continues to work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on antisemitism and the Cross-Government Working Group on antisemitism to ensure that the voices of the Jewish community are heard. It is also supporting the work of Streetwise which challenges antisemitism in schools.

    Britain has a long standing reputation for freedom of speach and freedom of religion, within the law. Iwant to make absolutley clear, however, that there is no place in Britain for bigotry, raceism or antisemetic attacks. Those who commit hate crimes should expect to be punished with the full force of the law.

    Yours sincerely

    Richard Benyon
    P.S. i was hoping to raise the whole issue of antisemitism in parliament in an urgent question but sadly the speaker did not allow it to go ahead. i am hoping there will be another opportunity.


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image.

    Reply from Sir David Amess - Conservative MP for Southend West

    Dear Ms Lowe,

    Thank you for your email regarding attacks on free speech. The two cases you mention bring to light a very important issue. I believe that free speech should never be limited and whilst people may be offended by the actions of others, in a liberal society we should always be free to express our views. I am glad that yesterday, MPs and peers told universities that they cannot be 'safe spaces' but must allow unpopular and controversial opinions to be heard. Groups like Antifa, who are intolerant to views that do not align with theirs, must not be allowed to take away our valuable freedoms. Please let me reassure you that I will continue to stand up for free speech and I will do everything that I can to ensure that it is preserved.
    Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

    With all good wishes,

    Yours sincerely,

    Sir David Amess MP

    Reply from Sir Peter Kyle - Labour MP for Hove


    This is a tad long for me to type out so click to pictures to view the letter.

    Reply from Douglas Chapman - Scottish National Party MP for Dunfermline and West Fife

    Dear Mr Davidson

    Thank you for your email. It is important that we do not lose sight of the collective need across society to have a zero-tolerance approach towards sectarianism and offensive behaviour.

    The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have published guidance setting out how it deals with offences involving communications sent by social media. The guidance distinguishes between different categories of communications. If the communication in question specifically targets an individual r group, and is considered a hate crime, domestic abuse or stalking, then it is very likely that court proceedings will be brought. The same applies if the communications involve threats of violence or incite public disorder.

    By contrast, communications which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false but do not involve a credible threat of violence or activity targeted at individuals are treated differently. This category might include offensive jokes about a particular group online. In such cases, prosecutors must consider the context of the communication, and whether it goes beyond merely being offensive, rude etc. As with all cases reported to COPFS, even where there is sufficient evidence, prosecutors must consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. In making that decision, they may also take into account any expression of genuine remorse, whether the person responsible for the communication had taken action to remove it and the effect on any identifiable victim.

    Although the EHRC recognises that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are enormously important and are protected by article 10 of the European convention on human rights, they need to be balanced against the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, which says that states need to have in place laws that counter "incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. It is the commission's position that the international convention overrides the ECHR, in this case.

    Rights like freedom of expression cannot be used to threaten, intimidate or attack the rights of others.

    Kind Regards
    Douglas
    Office of Douglas Chapman MP
    Dunfermline and West Fife
    01383 730073

    Reply from Craig Mackinlay - Conservative MP for South Thanet

    Thankyou for your letter of 20 March regarding suggesting that section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003 should be repealed in the light of a Mr Mark Meechan vieng found guilty of contravening the Act when he uploaded a video to YouTube of his dog giveing a Nazi salute. I not your concern that Mr Meechan now faces a possible jail sentance.

    While I am unable to comment on this individual case, I have put your concerns to the Ministry of Justice and ask that the appropriate Minister considers your suggestion and updates me on the Governments position. I shall write to you again as soon as I recieve a responce, or have further information to hand.
    ,br> If, in the meantime, there is anything else you feel i am able to do to help, please do let me know.
    Your sincerely,


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image.

    Reply from Christopher Pincher - Conservative MP for Tamworth

    On March Meechan's saluting dog video, I understand that a clear distinction was made between an off-hand remark and repeated efforts to train the dog. The video was understood to cause fear and alarm because the line 'gas the Jews' was repeated 23 times in an enthusiastic tone. Mr Meechan's prosecutors believed the video was grossly offensive because it was anti-Semitic in nature. Whilst Mr Meechan explained to the courts that the video was intended to be a joke, the repeated phrase was a clear threat of incitement. I expect the courts will review the evidence of the case and act in a just manner

    This was obtained from a letter and i am awaiting a picture of the original

    Reply from Oliver Letwin - Conservative MP for West Dorset

    Dear Mr Hill,

    Thank you for your letter of 24th March, which reached my by Signed For Delivery yesterday.

    I beleve that the relevant part of the Communications act is a perfectly sensible piece of legislation - and i don't think that the action of the courts was an infringement of the principal of free speech in any sence that would worry me.

    I am sorry that we do not agree about this.

    With best wishes,

    Yours sincerely

    SIR OLIVER LETWIN


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image.

    Reply from Graham Brady - Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West

    Dear Mr Simpson,

    Thank you for your letter regarding the 'Count Dankula' case.

    I share your concern that the law is resulting in an unacceptable infringement of liberty. It may be that this arises from defective legislation or over-enthusiastic interpritation by the courts.

    I have written to the Home Secretary raising this concern and requesting a responce. I will contact you again when i recieve it.

    Best wishes.


    This was hand typed from a letter to see the original click the image.

    Reply from Stephen Kerr - Conservative MP for Stirling

    Dear Mr Conner,

    Thank you very much for getting in touch.

    May I begin by saying that I am a supporter of free speech. As you say, being able to express your opinions is a cornerstone of our heritage, and through mediums such as Speakers Corner a wide range of opinions from across the political spectrum are regularly heard.

    Indeed, history tells us that whenever free speech isn't allowed, more unpleasant opinions spring up and fester. As an example, Nick Griffin was destroyed because he was allowed a podium for his views on BBC's Question Time, and people saw just what sort of person he is.

    With regard to Mark Mitcham's case, you will know that the Policing system in Scotland is devolved, and therefore under the control of the Scottish Government. While I have read some stories about his case, I would prefer to not comment, as I am not fully briefed on it.

    On a separate note, it may interest you to hear that I have recently written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, asking for confirmation from her department that the value of Free Speech is still taken seriously in our country.

    Thank you again for getting in touch. I appreciate hearing your views on this matter.

    Sincerely,
    Stephen Kerr
    MP for Stirling

    Reply from Kirsty Blackman - Scottish National Party MP for Aberdeen North

    Dear Mr Martin,

    Thank you for your email of 20 March 2018; Mrs Blackman has asked that I respond on her behalf.

    Mrs Blackman believes that it is important that we do not lose sight of the collective need across society to have a zero tolerance approach towards sectarianism and offensive behaviour.

    The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has published guidance setting out how it deals with offences involving communications sent by social media. The guidance distinguishes between different categories of communications. If the communication in question specifically targets an individual or group, and is considered to be hate crime, domestic abuse or stalking, then it is very likely that court proceedings will be brought. The same applies if the communications involve threats of violence or incite public disorder.

    By contrast, communications which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false but do not involve a credible threat of violence or activity targeted at individuals are treated differently. This category might include offensive jokes about a particular group online. In such cases, prosecutors must consider the context of the communication, and whether it goes beyond merely being offensive, rude etc. As with all cases reported to COPFS, even where there is sufficient evidence, prosecutors must consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. In making that decision, they may also take into account any expression of genuine remorse, whether the person responsible for the communication had taken action to remove it and the effect on any identifiable victim.

    Although the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recognises that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are enormously important and are protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, they need to be balanced against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which says that states need to have in place laws that counter "incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. It is the commission's position that the international convention overrides the ECHR, in this case.

    Rights like freedom of expression cannot be used to threaten, intimidate or attack the rights of others.

    I trust this clarifies Mrs Blackman's position on this matter. Should you have any further issues or queries please do not hesitate to contact the office.

    Kind regards

    Fiona Aitchison
    Caseworker for Kirsty Blackman MP

    Reply from Ronnie Cowan - Scottish National Party MP for Inverclyde

    Dear Mr McMillan,

    Thank you for contacting my office regarding the issue of freedom of speech. It is important that we do not lose sight of the collective need across society to have a zero tolerance approach towards sectarianism and offensive behaviour.

    The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has published guidance setting out how it deals with offences involving communications sent by social media. The guidance distinguishes between different categories of communications. If the communication in question specifically targets an individual or group, and is considered to be hate crime, domestic abuse or stalking, then it is very likely that court proceedings will be brought. The same applies if the communications involve threats of violence or incite public disorder.

    By contrast, communications which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false but do not involve a credible threat of violence or activity targeted at individuals are treated differently. This category might include offensive jokes about a particular group online. In such cases, prosecutors must consider the context of the communication, and whether it goes beyond merely being offensive, rude, etc. As with all cases reported to COPFS, even where there is sufficient evidence, prosecutors must consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. In making that decision, they may also take into account any expression of genuine remorse, whether the person responsible for the communication had taken action to remove it and the effect on any identifiable victim.

    Although the EHRC recognises that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are enormously important and are protected by article 10 of the European convention on human rights, they need to be balanced against the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, which says that states need to have in place laws that counter "incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. It is the commission's position that the international convention overrides the ECHR in this case.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Ronnie Cowan MP

    Member of Parliament for Inverclyde

    Reply from Alex Sobel - Labour MP for Leeds North West

    Dear Simon  

    Thank you for your letter concerning the case against Count Dankula. 

    I must admit to not knowing a great deal about this case before your letter and I have not seen the video in question for complete context. I too do not want to see a society where comedians and other artists are fearful of prison and see their freedom of expression limited by what judges and or politicians find tasteful.  

    However, I also do not think people should be free to make comments designed deliberately to upset or hurt minority groups or those vulnerable to discrimination and I worry that the ‘it’s just a joke’ defence allows for all kinds of unacceptable behaviour, that should be condemned by any decent society, to go unchecked. Hate crime laws exist for good reason and we must tread carefully when talking about any repeal that could cause harm to those who are victimised by prejudice and discrimination.  

    I was not in court during Count Dankula’s trial, nor have I seen the complete video, so it becomes very difficult to comment on this individual case and the exact reasons for prosecution. More generally, I  do wonder about the place that these ‘jokes’ are coming from. As a Jewish person, I find it difficult to forgive the phrase ‘gas the Jews’ in any context and my sympathy wains further when I see YouTube videos of Count Dankula standing in unity with former EDL and far right icon Tommy Robinson, and read some of the previous ‘jokes’ of his made on twitter which are obviously designed to offend for its own sake.  

    I do not think that on the back of this case, we will see a flurry of comedians being convicted. The CPS must make judgements on a case by case basis taking into account all of the facts and context.  

    Kind Regards

    Alex Sobel

    Labour & Co-operative Member of Parliament
    Leeds North West
    House Of Commons, London, SW1A 1AA