© 2017 Sebastian De Brennan. Barrister at Law

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Should swearing in public be a crime?

 

Should swearing in public be a crime?  

 

 

On 23 May 2018, UTS Faculty of Law will host a panel of prominent legal experts and advocates in a robust discussion of the legitimacy of offensive language crimes. Federal Court Judge and ALRC Commissioner Matthew Myers, Barrister Felicity Graham and Jane Sanders, Principal Solicitor at Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, will each offer their perspectives on the continued legitimacy of offensive language crimes in light of their disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and vulnerable Australians.

 

Australians have a reputation for their colourful language. But this reputation is at odds with Australia’s historical and continued criminalisation of swearing. Across Australia, it is a crime to use offensive, obscene or indecent language in or near a public place. Police generally target the swear words ‘f**k’ and/or ‘c**t’. Each year thousands of people are charged with or receive an on-the-spot fine for using offensive language. For example, in the year ending 31 March 2017 3,029 adults and children were proceeded against for offensive language. Of these, 1,610 received a $500 on-the-spot fine.

People who regularly occupy public space – those who are homeless or have a mental illness, youth and many Indigenous Australians – are over-represented as recipients of offensive language fines and charges. Indigenous Australians comprised 27% of those proceeded against for offensive language last year, despite comprising 3% of the NSW population.

In March 2018, the ALRC recommended that governments should review the effect on Indigenous Australians of statutory provisions that criminalise offensive language with a view to repealing the provisions or narrowing their scope.

 

 

Date: Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Time: 7pm for 7:15pm - 9:00pm
Location: Moot Court (5B.01.002), UTS Faculty of Law, Building 5, Block B, 1-59 Quay St, Haymarket
RSVP: register here

Refer to the UTS Law website for speaker biographies and further information.

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