People who swear at police WILL be arrested says Met chief as he slams landmark legal ruling (2023)

People who swear at police WILL be arrested says Met chief as he slams landmark legal ruling

By Richard Hartley-parkinson

Yobs who swear at police will still face arrest, a top officer has warned despite a judge's ruling that it is not a crime.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, Scotland Yard Commissioner, said he was 'deeply disappointed' by a ruling by Mr Justice Bean that let a defendant off when he hurled abuse at officers trying to search him for cannabis.

Mr Justice Bean quashed a public order conviction handed to Denzel Cassius Harvey who repeatedly used the word 'f***'.

Bernard Hogan-Howe (left) said he was 'deeply disappointed' by a ruling by Mr Justice Bean in overturning a public order conviction on an abusive suspect

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People who swear at police WILL be arrested says Met chief as he slams landmark legal ruling (3)

Denzel Cassius Harvey appealed against his conviction for a public order offence in which he repeatedly swore at police

The judge overturned the sentence saying police were regularly on the receiving end of expletives.

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Mr Hogan-Howe said: 'I can only speak as a police officer with a few years' experience. It is not acceptable to be sworn at for anybody, so why would it be any more acceptable for a police officer?

'Even if you accepted that argument, then it doesn't look too good, does it, in terms of respect?

'A police officer challenges [a suspect] about something and they stand there being abusive.

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'I just don't understand how that works. So I am deeply disappointed by the decision, but I respect the fact that apparently it is a statement of the law.'

Mr Harvey, 20, from Hackney, was fined £50 at Thames Youth Court in March last year for repeatedly saying 'f***' at police officers when he was searched for cannabis.

Mr Hogan-Howe said he thought 'there were still opportunities for that arrest to happen' if a member of the public was being abusive towards an officer.

'Quite often they are threatening in their behaviour. They are being aggressive or moving towards you, waving their arms about or making threats as well as using abusive language.'

'Often when people are swearing at police officers, there are other things that are happening, for which they can be arrested,' he said on LBC radio.

'What we decide to make a charge on is a matter for either ourselves or the Crown Prosecution Service.

'So if we stick the charge at using obscene language, then it can be we make the wrong charge according to the Court of appeal, I understand, that's what I'm saying I accept.

'However, at the same time, if the person is using threatening behaviour or acting violently, or it looks as though there's going to be a breach of the peace but we decide not to charge that, we've missed an opportunity.

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'So it's not making evidence up, it is not aggravating a situation, it's making sure we take all the circumstances into account and select the most appropriate charge.'

The ruling was seen to pave the way for scores of other louts to challenge their convictions for public order offences - and could even have forced police to pay them for wrongful arrest.

It also came just weeks after London Mayor Boris Johnson called for a zero-tolerance crackdown on those who abuse officers.

When no drugs were found on Mr Harvey following a search, he continued: 'Told you you wouldn’t find ***k all.'

After being asked whether he had a middle name, the surly yob replied: 'No – I've already ****ing told you so.'

Judge Bean claimed it was 'quite impossible to infer that the group of young people who were in the vicinity were likely to have experienced alarm or distress at hearing these rather commonplace swear words used'.


What happens if you cuss out a cop? ›

As you already know, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects free speech. Because of the Amendment, police officers generally cannot arrest people, nor can the government prosecute them, simply for what they've said.

Are cops allowed to use profanity? ›

Though many police officers may use profanity (sometimes referred to as “tactical language”) as an additional use of force tool, its use may lead to increased risk to the officer by way of subject retaliation or backlash from the public due to a perception that the officer is “out of control” (Baseheart & Cox, 1993).

Do police have no legal obligation to protect anyone? ›

True, Unless police have assumed a duty to protect you, they don't have one. “Neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individual persons from harm — even when they know the harm will occur,” said Darren L.

Can you curse a cop NYC? ›

As the Marshall Project explains, people are free to say what they want to the police so long as their words don't “threaten violence” or seem “likely to incite a violent response.” So, know your rights — but also do your best to keep the cursing to a minimum when interacting with cops, who will continue to not take ...

What state can you not curse in? ›

Virginia Profanity Law Repealed By State Legislators : NPR. Virginia Profanity Law Repealed By State Legislators "Profane swearing" has been illegal in the commonwealth since 1792.

Are curse words protected by the First Amendment? ›

Court ruled that profanity can not be banned under the First Amendment.

Do you have to identify yourself to the police? ›

A police officer may stop and question you in the street or any public place. You don't have to provide any personal details about yourself unless you are a suspect or a witness.

Why do cops use profanity? ›

Although police may intentionally use profanity to gain compliance or to convey a sense of urgency, it is associated with negative public evaluations (White, Cox, and Baseheart, 1988), and could result in alienation from the police, police misconduct allegations, the perception that the officer lost control during the ...

Can police hit you during interrogation? ›

No one can be tortured, slapped, abused or ill-treated while they are being interrogated or questioned. If the police beat or injure you during interrogation, they can be punished under the law. Custodial rape is a punishable offence under the law.

Does the Supreme Court rule police don t have obligation to protect? ›

The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that police have no specific obligation to protect. In its 1989 decision in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, the justices ruled that a social services department had no duty to protect a young boy from his abusive father.

What to do if the police don't help you? ›

Further, if a person thinks that a proper investigation has not been made by the police officer, the person can approach the Superintendent of Police or another superior police officer (the superior officer can do the investigation if he wants to).

Is it a crime to not help the police? ›

A person who, when ordered by a law enforcement officer to assist the officer in the execution of the officer's duties, knowingly or intentionally, and without a reasonable cause, refuses to assist commits refusal to aid an officer, a Class B misdemeanor.

Can you say the F word to a cop? ›

Woods' encounter with cops has repeatedly played out across the U.S.: Cops arrest someone for swearing at them, in some form, and virtually every time, a court vindicates the civilian. The Supreme Court has even repeatedly upheld civilians' right to use profanity, even directed at law enforcement officers.

Can you honk at a cop in NYC? ›

In NY, horn honking is like a second language to us so, you might not get any flack from a cop if you honk at one. But if you do, and you have no proof of a warning honk, don't be surprised if you are asked for license and registration.

Is cursing disorderly conduct in New York? ›

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when engaging in the following: Fighting, violence, tumultuous or threatening behavior. Unreasonable noise. Abusive or obscene language or gestures in public.

What US city swears the most? ›

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — Columbus is the most foul-mouthed city in the United States, according to a recent study by Preply. Preply surveyed more than 1,500 residents in 30 major U.S. cities to determine which cities swear most frequently.

What is the oldest curse? ›

What is the oldest curse? A team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester have unearthed what they claim is the world's oldest curse. The 1,700-year-old curse tablet asks god Maglus for invoking his wrath on the thief who has stolen the cloak of Servandus.

What is the longest curse? ›

Dunbar is famed in Scottish and ecclesiastical history for issuing the longest curse, a 1000-word diatribe against the Borders reivers who he excommunicated saying this: “I curse their head and all the hairs of their head.

Is it illegal to swear in public in Michigan? ›

Cursing and swearing—Any person who has arrived at the age of discretion, who shall profanely curse or damn or swear by the name of God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.


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