Following a number of instances in which seemingly innocuous individuals have been stopped or even charged by police, there is growing concern that Section 5 of the Public Order Act is increasingly being used as a catch-all clause by overzealous police officers to disrupt perfectly legitimate protests. The latest case, that of a 15-year-old facing prosecution for holding a placard that labelled the Church of Scientology a "cult" is yet another example of this pointless practice. I've got no particular beef with Scientologists, but this is an opinion the person involved should be entitled to hold and express.
This is a serious problem. First, don't the police and the CPS have anything better to do? There are far more serious - and far more criminal - acts committed every day than someone expressing an opinion. Worse, it is this kind of shenanigans that makes the law look like an ass. If people lose their respect for law enforcement then it can only be harmful socially and in terms of detection, crime reporting and so on. Taxpayers want the police catching muggers and driving down assaults, not throwing their weight around in religious arguments.
We hear - quite rightly - from the police that far too many people are making spurious 999 calls and wasting police time, which squanders taxpayers' money and endangers those who really need the police to protect them from crime. Of course people should stop wasting police time - it would be nice if the police officer who nicked this individual would lead the way.