Judicial review of Jon Gaunt's free speech challenge to Ofcom begins

14 June 2010

Today the judicial review hearing of Ofcom’s decision to uphold complaints against the radio talk show host Jon Gaunt begins in the High Court. Liberty, the human rights group, has intervened in the case because of its wider importance to free speech.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“Too many people say – my speech is free but yours is more expensive. Love him or hate him, Jon Gaunt’s case is a vital defence of everyone’s political speech under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. None of us should take this freedom for granted.”

Jon Gaunt said:

“British people have fought tooth and nail over the centuries since Magna Carta to defend and protect the right to free speech. Our forefathers fought the Nazis in the 20th century to protect such rights. It would be painfully ironic if use of the word ‘Nazi’ were to defeat us when the real Nazis couldn’t.”

Martin Howe, Jon Gaunt’s solicitor, said:

“A free press and media is an essential and fundamental ingredient of meaningful democracy. Broadcasters should be free to test our elected politicians on matters such as expenses, front-line cuts, terror policies, the prosecution of wars etc. In Jon Gaunt’s case he should be free to challenge a controversial childcare policy. Presenters in political debate should not be looking over their shoulder waiting for the Ofcom gag to be slapped on. Tyranny triumphs when good men are silenced. Our democracy has more to fear from faceless bureaucrats thumbing their thesaurus than from the plain speaking polemic of Jon Gaunt”.

Jon Gaunt was sacked from TALKsport on 19 November 2008, two weeks after he called a Redbridge Council representative a 'Nazi', a 'Health Nazi' and an 'ignorant pig' during an on-air discussion about the Council's ban on placing vulnerable children with foster parents who smoke.

Contact: Liberty’s press office on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128

Notes to Editors

1. In November 2008, Redbridge Council announced a policy prohibiting smokers (even those who smoked outside the home) from fostering or adopting children. Councillor Michael Stark defended the policy and was invited onto Jon Gaunt’s talkSPORT radio show on 7 November 2008. As a former foster child himself, Gaunt expressed the view that it was more important for children to have a good parent than a non-smoking parent. In the heated debate that followed, Gaunt referred to Councillor Stark as a “health Nazi”, a “Nazi” and an “ignorant pig”. Gaunt offered an apology for the comments; however a few days later the management at talkSPORT sacked him.

2. On 27 January 2010, in the High Court, Jon Gaunt won the right to challenge the Ofcom finding on the basis that it is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.