Lawyers have questioned a police officer’s decision to confront an actor in the streets of London for wearing a T-shirt saying ‘F**k Boris’.
Jessie-Lu Flynn said she felt like she’d stepped into a ‘totalitarian regime’ as she was stopped in Regent Street after leaving Wednesday’s Black Lives Matter protest at Trafalgar Square.
In a video of the incident, a police officer can be heard accusing the director and performer of breaching the Public Order Act for bearing a slogan ‘likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress’. Ms Flynn responds: ‘Why would that cause harassment? To who?’
After arguing over whether anyone had actually been offended, Ms Flynn, from Shepherd’s Bush, eventually agreed to zip up her hoodie and conceal her view of Boris Johnson. One lawyer told Metro.co.uk someone would typically need to complain for police to respond to a public order offence and that case law suggests coppers are not expected to get offended themselves.
TV legal expert Robert Rinder went as far to say: ‘This officer believed that a person’s right to exercise her freedom of speech was a crime. He was wrong. Whatever your politics, we should all be troubled by this. How differently this could have ended.’
Ms Flynn said: ‘It’s not like anyone said to the police “I’m offended, please get that woman to cover it up”. Protesters during that march were saying “f**k Boris and f**k the police”.
‘My heart was really racing, I was thinking I could actually get arrested because of what I was wearing. Obviously it’s a bit contentious, there’s going to be people that support Boris. I genuinely didn’t know if that was against the law.
‘That’s going to be up to the individual police officer. My opinion is until Boris stops f**king the country I’m not going to stop telling him to f**k himself.’
A spokesperson for British Transport Police said: ‘We are aware of a video on social media of one of our officers near Oxford Circus Underground station.
‘Our officer approached the individual in a courteous and professional manner and legitimately challenged them for wearing an item of clothing that contains an obscene word that could cause alarm or distress.’
James Constable of B P Collins says there’s a grey area between freedom of speech and public order but that typically someone would have had to complain to police.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘No one in this video seems to be taking offence to the T-shirt apart from the police officer. No one seems to be reporting it.
‘Normally for a public order offence it needs to be reported, an allegation needs to be made to the police for them to act.
‘It’s a grey area. By the letter of the law there’s an offence there. But no one seems to be offended by it. There’s freedom of speech obviously as well – it’s a difficult area.
‘The police themselves won’t be able to be offended by it because there’s case law to say that they should be more hardy to that kind of language.
‘You should be able to swear at the police and they can’t be offended because they hear that every day.’
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