Waverley Local Court magistrate Robbie Williams has ruled that citizens in South Wales are free to use “prick” in referring to police officers. The ruling ends the prosecution of science student Henry Grech, 22, who used the word to describe Senior Constable Adam Royds during a confrontation.
The rationale for the ruling is a bit less satisfying. Rather than protecting the right of free speech, Williams disagreed that a reasonable person would be offended by being called a “prick” and noted that “I consider the word prick is of a less derogatory nature than other words and it is in common usage in this country.”
Well, it would hardly be described as a term of endearment.
We continue to see cases in the United States where officers improperly arrest people for the use of profanity with officers or other citizens, here and here. Recently, a man won $5000 after being arrested for “flipping the bird” at an officer, here. South Dakota’s Supreme Court recently ruled that citizens have a protected right in swearing at police, here.
Recently, a lawyer was arrested for calling an officer a “prick” in a courtroom, here — though the rules governing conduct in court are different from those that apply on the streets.
Police Association secretary Peter Remfrey complained that the ruling made police “second-class citizens”.
I would suggest that Remfrey simply quote the Bard from The Merchant of Venice: “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”
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