Lord Lester and Y7 debate freedom of speech and why it matters

Senior School Politics

Which human rights would you stand up for? Anthony Lester, Baron Lester of Herne Hill, QC a former JAGS parent and Chair of Governors and a leading Human Rights lawyer, addresses this thorny question in his new book: Five Ideas to Fight For. In discussion here with Y7, Lord Lester asked them to focus on freedom of speech. Boldly leading the debate were Georgia, Maddy, Bella, Jenna, Alice K, Alice M-D and Evie. It was a hot topic with opinions swinging widely across the lecture theatre. Lord Lester was impressed by the confident, challenging arguments on every side. Congratulations to everyone who contributed and contested points of view. Maddy, Bella and Jenna recognise it’s not as easy as it seems to resolve the issue.

Bella: ‘It was an honour and a privilege to speak to and present an argument to Lord Lester who has so much experience and knowledge. I had always believed that freedom of speech should never be restricted; however, listening to the other speakers made me realise that there are lots of reasons as to why freedom of speech should be restricted in certain circumstances where such speech may for example, be intended to offend minority groups or those with less ability to respond.’

Jenna: ‘I jumped at the opportunity to debate in front of Lord Lester. I am extremely happy because this experience not only emphasised the fact that I want to be a Human Rights Barrister, but it also gave me more confidence to speak out.
Freedom of speech wasn’t something I’d particularly thought about before this occasion, but after this event I found myself more and more curious about it. For as free as we feel in the UK, we do not have freedom of speech, sadly. So this made me consider why. As many problems that freedom of speech may bring, I still believe that the UK should have freedom of speech. This is because if we don’t people will find other ways of having their voice heard such as through aggression or violence. Also our representatives and MPs may not always have our best interests in mind. Finally, even if we were going to restrict speech, how would do we do it?’ 

Maddy: ‘I feel that there should be freedom of speech but it should be limited, and the question I think is most important is who gets to draw the line between what is allowed or not? This was, however different to what I first believed in; I used to think there should not be freedom of speech, but hearing other points has made an impact on my decision.’

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