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Whitehouse v Lemon

[1979] AC 617

Case summary last updated at 06/02/2020 11:28 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Whitehouse v Lemon

D published a magazine containing a blasphemous poem and the jury convicted them of blasphemous libel. The HL dismissed their appeals and the MAJORITY asserted that for blasphemous libel the mens rea needed was an intent to publish material which a jury held to be blasphemous i.e. it may not have been the publisher’s purpose to offend Christians or degrade Christ: it was sufficient that the jury held that this was the effect of a deliberate act by D. Lord Scarman described it as “a blasphemous libel is matter calculated to outrage the feelings of Christians”. He says that it should be extended to all religions and says that it is crucial for religious feelings to be tolerated and protected from offence in a pluralist society. NB the minority (Lords Edmund-Davies and Diplock) argue that as a matter of policy, the HL should construe the mens rea as subjective intent/recklessness as to hurting the feelings of Christians. NOT merely intending to publish material that a jury later decide is blasphemous. 

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