Handyside v The United Kingdom: ECHR 7 Dec 1976

Freedom of Expression is Fundamental to Society

The appellant had published a ‘Little Red Schoolbook’. He was convicted under the 1959 and 1964 Acts on the basis that the book was obscene, it tending to deprave and corrupt its target audience, children. The book claimed that it was intended to teach school children about sex, including recommending the use of pornography.
Held: The Court’s supervisory functions oblige it to pay the utmost attention to the principles characterising a ‘democratic society’. Freedom of expression, as protected by Art 10(1), is one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. Freedom of speech was not applicable only to inoffensive material, but also extends to protect activity in the nature of protests which others may find shocking, disturbing, or offensive: ‘Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness without which there is no democratic society.’
The right to freedom of expression includes the right to ‘offend, shock and disturb.’
However: ‘it is not possible to find in the domestic law of the various contracting states a uniform European conception of morals. The views taken by their respective laws of the requirements of morals varies from time to time and from place to place, especially in our era which is characterised by a rapid and far-reaching evolution of opinions on the subject. By reason of their direct and continuous contact with the vital forces of their countries, state authorities are in principle in a better position than the international judge to give an opinion on the exact content of these requirements as well as on the ‘necessity’ of a ‘restriction’ or ‘penalty’ intended to meet them.’

5493/72, (1976) 1 EHRR 737, [1976] ECHR 5
Worldlii, Bailii
European Convention on Human Rights 1 10, Obscene Publications Act 1959, Obscene Publications Act 1964
Human Rights
Cited by:
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. .
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The claimant had been compulsorily detained under the Act. He complained that the detention and compulsory medication infringed his rights, and amongst other things breached his religious beliefs.
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Housing Costs as part of child support assessment. The court considered the interpretation of the word ‘necessary’, saying that the Court must not qualify the word ‘necessary’ by reference to what might be regarded as reasonable. The word . .
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CitedMcLellan v Bracknell Forest Borough Council; Reigate Borough Council v Benfield and Another CA 16-Oct-2001
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Held: Review was . .
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The defendant had been convicted of publishing obscene articles for gain under the Act. He lived in London, and published a web site which was stored or hosted abroad, containing pornographic items. The investigating officer had called up the . .
CitedAdams and Others v Lord Advocate IHCS 31-Jul-2002
(Opinion) The applicants challenged the introduction of restrictions of hunting by foxes, arguing that the law would infringe their human rights.
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CitedN, Regina (On the Application of) v M and Others Admn 24-Sep-2002
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fedinand_mgnQBD2011
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Ban on Gay Condemnation was Infringement
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The claimant sought judicial review of the decision made by TfL not to allow an advertisement on behalf of the Trust to appear on the outside of its buses. It was to read: ‘NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!’. The decision was said to . .
CitedOtto-Preminger-Institut v Austria ECHR 20-Sep-1994
Balance of Religious Tolerance and Freedom
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FollowedMarckx v Belgium ECHR 13-Jun-1979
Recognition of illegitimate children
The complaint related to the manner in which parents were required to adopt their own illegitimate child in order to increase his rights. Under Belgian law, no legal bond between an unmarried mother and her child results from the mere fact of birth. . .
CitedRecovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill (Reference By The Counsel General for Wales) SC 9-Feb-2015
The court was asked whether the Bill was within the competence of the Welsh Assembly. The Bill purported to impose NHS charges on those from whom asbestos related damages were recovered.
Held: The Bill fell outside the legislative competence . .
CitedMiller v The College of Policing CA 20-Dec-2021
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Media

Leading Case

Updated: 30 December 2021; Ref: scu.164876