Freedom of Speech
All citizens of the United Kingdom have the right to 'freedom of expression'. This means that we are entitled to our own opinions and have the right to voice them. Article 10 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 deals with Freedom of Expression, however, this does not mean that we can say exactly what we want, there are restrictions and penalties prescribed by law which are necessary in a democratic society.
As a democratic organisation Northumbria University is committed to the principles of freedom of speech and in order to comply with the requirements of Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, will take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech continues to exist within the University.
The University believes that an environment of free and open discussion is essential in order to help students develop lively, enquiring minds and the ability to question and argue rationally. However, such an environment can only be guaranteed if all concerned behave with respect for, and tolerance of other races, religions, beliefs and ways of life. At the same time the University recognises that freedom of speech may not always be compatible with other freedoms. In simple terms this means that freedom of speech cannot be guaranteed in circumstances which are against the law, for example, the expression of views which incite racial hatred, sexually harassment etc.
The Terrorism Act became law on Thursday 30 March 2006. The new measures contained in the act make it a criminal offence to encourage terrorism (including to glorify terrorism), to disseminate terrorist publications, to prepare or plan to commit a terrorist act (or to assist others in doing so) and to give or receive terrorist training.
Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech
Section 43 also requires the University to develop a Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech. The Code of Practice sets out the University’s regulations for the organisation of meetings held on University premises and about the conduct required of people in connection with meetings, conferences etc.
The Code states that freedom of speech, within the law, is secured on University premises for members, students and employees of the University and for visiting speakers'. Furthermore, the use of University premises, so far as is reasonably practicable, is not to be denied 'to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with: (a) the beliefs or views of that individual or of any member of that body; or (b) the policy or objectives of that body'. The University’s Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech is available in the Handbook of Student Regulations (Section 5).