Lincolnshire Police would like to offer clarification about a story that is currently circulating in the media concerning a Boston pensioner alleging that he faces arrest for displaying an atheist poster in the window of his home.
LincolnshirePolice have not advised Mr Richards that he faces arrest for the specific posters he is displaying and he is not committing any offences by doing so.
The 1986 Public Order Act states that a person is guilty of an offence if they display a sign which is threatening or abusive or insulting with the intent to provoke violence or which may cause another person harassment, alarm or distress. This is balanced with a right to free speech and the key point is that the offence is committed if it is deemed that a reasonable person would find the content insulting.
If a complaint is received by the police in relation to a sign displayed in a person’s window, an officer would attend and make a reasoned judgement about whether an offence had been committed under the Act. In the majority of cases where it was considered that an offence had been committed, the action taken by the officer would be to issue words of advice and request that the sign be removed. Only if this request were refused might an arrest be necessary.
Very explicit or grossly offensive material may be dealt with under alternative legislation.