Heading out tomorrow night - watch your mouth*
* Warning - this post contains offensive language (actually, it depends a bit on your definition of “offensive”).
F***, f***, f***, f***, f*** and f*** it again. I have just agreed to write a 500 word article over the weekend. What a f****** pain in the arse. I should have said I was too f***** busy and they should get some other stupid f*** to do it.
Gosh, I hope I haven’t offended anyone. Have I used any offensive language? So what is offensive language anyway? You could go to any pub in Sydney and hear language much worse than I’ve used.
But you better not speak like that in front of a police man or woman. Especially if you are being difficult anyway and they are looking for some way to get you under their control.
Sure enough, if you use a couple of naughty words and wound the sensitivities of the local constabulary then you can look forward to experiencing the heavy hand of the law.
“You’re under arrest for offensive language” – Immediately you think “this is bullshit” and when they move in to arrest you and grab an arm or shoulder then you might pull away – “That’s resisting arrest mate.” or worse still you might slap the police officer or push them away – “That’s assault police mate.”
For years you’ve been going to the TAB or pub and losing but today is your lucky day – you’ve just scored the ‘trifecta’; charges of Offensive Language, Resist Arrest and Assault police. All because you said some swear words. Defence lawyers have been referring to this combination of charges as the ‘trifecta’ for decades.
As far back as 1966 a wise Judge said this “Conduct which offends against the standards of good taste or good manners which is a breach of the rules of courtesy or runs contrary to accepted social rules may be ill advised, hurtful, not proper conduct…. but it may well not be offensive within the meaning of the [law]”
In 1988 a Supreme Court Judge was ruling about these words directed at police. “Get f*****, you c****, I’m just trying to help my mates…..Get f***** leave me alone. I’m trying to help my mate.” The Judge agreed that by consideration of community standards the words were not intrinsically “offensive” in the legal sense.
There have been a number of other decisions of Supreme Court Judges that are along the same lines. It all depends on the context and the circumstances in which the word are said. But what we can’t do is apply the Double Bay/Mosman standards of language to the law (although I have been in a few pubs in those places where the language was colourful).
A Judge in Tasmania said that using the ‘F’ word can become such a habit with some people they are not even aware they are using it…. the word loses all meaning”
A Judge in the ACT ruled on these words said to a police officer “why don’t you c**** f*** off and leave us alone” The Judge said “ in the absence of a group of school children, aged pensioners or a congregation of worshippers gathered outside the Canberra Workers Club, there was not likely to be anyone present present who would ... be considered by the reasonable bystander to be offended….”
Now before all you bloggers, tweeters etc get on your high horses just remember that Supreme Court judges are not generally out there, left of centre, have a party, let it rip kind of people. They are Conservative with a capital C.
And last week I was in a cafe near a court in Sydney when a female police officer walked in. The cafe was full of customers. The police officer was obviously a local and knew the proprietor. She said in a very very loud voice, “get of your arse you bum. What have you been doing all morning you lazy f****** slut’. I wonder how many people she has arrested for using offensive language?
All of the cases referred to above are cited in the case of Police v Butler NSWLC 2
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