UK: Children Risk Prosecution for 'Gay' Slur
Posted on: 2007-10-10 14:41:10
Those convicted would face up to seven years in jail
Speech Crime Nets Teen Sentence
By Stephen Adams
Children who call their classmates “gay” risk being arrested for committing a hate crime even if they do not know what the word means, a leading charity warned last night.
Under new proposals issued by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, it will be illegal to use threatening words or behaviour on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Those convicted would face up to seven years in jail.
But Kidscape, which helps bullied and vulnerable children, said police officers must use “common sense” when called in to investigate whether pupils had broken the proposed law.
The charity warned many youngsters who used “gay” as an insult did not even know what it meant.
Claude Knights, the charity’s training manager, said to many children the word now meant only “the opposite of cool”.
She insisted the legislation was worthwhile if it reduced true homophobic bullying, but added: “The word is almost at the point where it has become a general insult, the opposite of cool.
Children say things like, 'Your trainers are gay.’ “It is almost in youth culture now. You get kids in primary school using it and they don’t have any idea what the word means.
“If we are going to have consequences [to the new law] we have got to have common sense in how it is applied.”
The proposed new law would be the first to cover a specific offence of homophobic incitement.