Director of Public Prosecutions v Collins: Admn 23 Jun 2005

The defendant had, over a period of time, telephoned his MP’s office using racially abusive epithets. He was originally charged under the 1984 Act, but then under the 2003 Act. The magistrates found the remarks offensive, but not so grossly offensive as to constitute an offence under the Act. The prosecutor appealed.
Held: The appeal failed. Whilst the appellate court themselves found the remarks grossly offensive, parliament must have meant something by the addition of the word ‘grossly’ and the question was a matter of fact for the magistrates to find. Their finding that the particular words were offensive but not grossly offensive was open to them. Parliament had criminalised the sending of messages which if spoken would not constitute an offence. It is the message not the content, and ‘a balance is clearly being struck here between the respect for private life enjoined by Article 8 and the right of free expression protected by Article 10. ‘ The fact that the particular people who had heard the remarks were not greatly offended did affect the issue, and the same words could well be grossly offensive in even slightly different circumstances.


Sedley LJ, Mitting J


[2006] 1 WLR 308, [2005] EWHC 1308 (Admin), (2005) CrimLR 794, (2005) 2 CrAppR 39, [2005] 3 All ER 326




Telecommunications Act 1984 43(1), Communications Act 2003 127


England and Wales


CitedBrutus v Cozens HL 19-Jul-1972
The House was asked whether the conduct of the defendant at a tennis match at Wimbledon amounted to using ‘insulting words or behaviour’ whereby a breach of the peace was likely to be occasioned contrary to section 5. He went onto court 2, blew a . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromDirector of Public Prosecutions v Collins HL 19-Jul-2006
The defendant had made a series of racist and abusive calls to the office of his local MP. The prosecutor appealed a refusal to convict under the 1984 (now the 2003) Act. The defendant had argued that the messages had been offensive, but not grossly . .
CitedChambers v Director of Public Prosecutions QBD 27-Jul-2012
The defendant appealed by case stated against his conviction under section 127 of the 2003 Act. Becoming frustrated with its inefficiency he issued a tweet, which was said to have been a threat: ‘Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Media

Updated: 01 July 2022; Ref: scu.227059