Poppy prosecution support

March 14, 2011, 8:46 PM GMT+0

A clear majority of the British public agrees with the prosecution of a protester who burned poppies on Armistice Day, although support for legal action against offensive protests in general is not as strong,
our poll reveals.

  • 82% of the public support the prosecution of a man who burned poppies during an Armistice Day protest
  • Only 10% disagreed with the decision to prosecute
  • More generally, 67% thought that offensive protests that could increase racial or religious tensions should not escape prosecution
  • Compared to 25% who thought that as long as protests were peaceful, they were not breaking the law, irrespective of the nature of the protester’s views

Older people and Conservatives more in favour of prosecution

It seems that age and political leaning has an impact on your views on the matter, with older people more likely than their younger counterparts to support the prosecution of protesters, and with those intending to vote Liberal Democrat and Labour voters taking a less litigious stance than those intending to vote Conservative.

  • 75% of those over 60 say that ‘it is right’ that ‘extremists who make offensive or provocative protests’ should be prosecuted
  • In comparison, 55% of 18-24 year olds feel the same
  • And while a substantial 40% of Liberal Democrat supporters say that ‘as long as a protest is peaceful, people should not be prosecuted’, along with 29% of Labour supporters who agree, just 19% of those who intend to vote Conservative feel the same

Causing offence…versus free speech

A Muslim extremist has been prosecuted and fined £50 for burning poppies at a protest last Armistice Day (November 11th). Emdadur Choudhury is part of the group Muslims Against Crusades, whose protest disrupted the annual two-minute silence with chants of ‘Burn, burn, British soldiers, British soldiers, burn in hell’. Explaining his decision to prosecute Choudhury, District Judge Howard Riddle said that the extremist’s act was a ‘calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn or remember them’.

Notwithstanding, some have criticised the punishment for being too lenient, a sentiment which David Cameron seemed to echo when he said that he understood people who think that ‘we should be making a stronger statement that that sort of behaviour is completely out of order’.

However, the £50 fine was supported by the senior judge in charge of policy and sentencing in England and Wales, who defended the decision as carefully balancing the offence caused against the nation’s right to free speech.

See the survey details and full results here