Manchester police chief: Hate speech laws risk turning us into the ‘thought police’

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The chief constable of Greater Manchester police has warned that broad laws banning hate speech risk a drift towards an Orwellian “thought police”.

Police chief Sir Peter Fahy made the claims in an interview with the Guardian, in which he warned that laws left it open to interpretation whether anti-gay Christians were committing hate speech.

He said society needed to better define what constituted hate speech, saying: “There is a danger of us being turned into a thought police.

“When does anti-Israeli protest become anti-Semitic? How far is it OK to challenge homosexuality, women’s rights? How far is it OK to advocate violent action abroad?”

“These are difficult issues for Muslims and the Catholic church… Extremism is not just about Muslims, there are a lot of right-wing extremists.

“If that speaker, says all homosexuals are sinful, are mentally defective and need reprogramming and are threat to society, is that preaching hatred?”

He added that the best solution was for individual institutions to create policies banning hate speech, saying: “The police service does not want to be in school or on university campuses controlling thought.

“The best way to avoid this is for such institutions to have procedures to know the messages which are being promoted and for student bodies to have policies on whether preaching hatred towards homosexuality, allowing segregated meetings or advocating violent action overseas is acceptable or not.”