The report, which has been drawn up by top QC Frances Hoare with a forward by former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption, has detailed an assault on freedom of speech through recent hate crime legislation and workplace practices. It follows concerns that so-called “cancel culture” by woke institutions and activists is leading to people being forced out of their jobs, blocked from speaking, facing legal action or banned from social media platforms.
The problem was highlighted in February when the Freedom of Speech Union (FSU), set up by the journalist Toby Young, revealed it had provided legal support for between 500 and 700 individual cases in its first year.
The latest study was commissioned by Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox to provide a dispassionate legal view on the current state of freedom of speech in Britain.
He said: “Never before have I seen such suppression of free speech, such censoring of perfectly moderate opinion, and perhaps most perniciously, the censorship of the self. New speech codes – vocabulary, syntax, pronouns, etc – are forced into everyday parlance.
“There is a war being waged on language, and our right to use it, as every single day those who seek offence anywhere find offence everywhere.
“The meanings of our words are twisted and turned until they get stuck in the mouth for fear of the repercussions.”
The 50 page report has proposed six eforms designed to give UK citizens the same protection as the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
These include a recommendation that the police should lose the power to investigate so-called “non-crime hate incidents” and the Scottish Hate Crime Bill should be scrapped.
Offences of stirring up racial hatred should be reformed to align them with the offences of stirring up hatred due to religious belief or sexual orientation by providing that they are committed only where there is intent to stir up hatred.
It has argued social media website ‘hosts’ of ‘organic’ content that is not edited or published by them (in law) should be prohibited from removing statements unless their publication is or may be a criminal offence or a civil wrong.
The report argued that employers should no longer be able to sack people for expressing politically incorrect opinions outside work.
In his conclusions, Mr Hoare said there also needed to be a change in public outlook as well legal reforms.
He said: “What is needed is a revolution in public outlook.
“A country whose citizens have become used to seeking the instruction of the state before deciding whether to leave their own homes needs to re-acquaint itself with the freedoms that are its greatest heritage; and its citizens need to learn that the more they rely upon the state as a protector, the less control they will have over how and in what way they are protected.
“Because, while freedom of expression is the gateway to all freedom, it is no more than that. The British people must walk through the gate.”
Lord Sumption said: “This report is a timely and important reminder of the value of freedom of thought and expression.”
He concluded: “We have to accept the implications of human curiosity. Some of what people believe will be wrong. Some of it may even be harmful, not just to those who hold those beliefs but to others. We cannot have truth without accommodating error. It is the price that we pay for allowing knowledge and understanding to develop and human civilisation to advance.”