Freedom of Speech Policy

Members, learners and employees of BCE must conduct themselves so as to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, learners and employees of BCE and for visiting speakers. The freedom protected by this Code of Practice is confined to the exercise of freedom of speech within the law. BCE believes that a culture of free, open and robust discussion can be achieved only if all concerned avoid needlessly offensive or provocative action and language.

Whilst there is no legal prohibition on offending others, BCE expects speakers and those taking part in meetings or protest activities to respect its values, to be sensitive to the diversity of its community and to show respect to all sections of that community. An event which is likely to give rise to an environment in which people will experience, or could reasonably fear, harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse or violence, particularly because of their ethnicity, race, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender, disability or age, is also likely to be unlawful.

Under section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 universities are required to issue a Code of Practice. The following Code was approved by Council on 13 July 2009 and takes effect on 1 October 2009.

Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech

Code of Practice issued under section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986:

Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 requires BCE to issue and keep up to date a code of practice to be followed by members, learners and employees of BCE for the organisation of meetings and other events, which are to be held on BCE premises, and for the conduct required of members, learners and employees of BCE in connection with meetings and other events. No revision of this Code will take effect until agreed by the Governing Body.

This Code applies to all members, learners and employees of BCE, in respect of all premises used by BCE. Outdoor as well as indoor meetings and other events are included. 
An intentional or reckless breach of this Code of Practice is an offence under the BCE’s Regulations and may be the subject of disciplinary action. Where the acts of individuals involve alleged breaches of criminal law, BCE will assist the prosecuting authorities in implementing the due process of law and any internal disciplinary proceedings may be deferred or suspended pending the outcome of criminal proceedings.

Meetings and events on BCE premises

Meetings and events to which this Code applies

In this part of the Code reference to a meeting or an event refers to meetings or other events where the nature of the meeting or event, the identity of the speaker or speakers or some other factor gives rise to reasonable concern on the part of the organisers, the individuals that the proposed meeting or event may be disrupted or may result in violence, disorder, harassment or any other unlawful activity.

The Managing Director and Operations Director are responsible for approving suitable arrangements for such meetings and events and may make such directions, or issue such guidance, as is necessary to ensure that the nature and conduct of the meeting is lawful and in accordance with the provisions of this Code.

Organisation of such meetings or events

It shall be the duty of the organisers of every such meeting or event to seek the approval of the Directors for the holding of that meeting.

Any other member of staff who has concerns about a prospective meeting or event should bring his or her concerns promptly to the attention of the Managing Director and the Managing Director shall take such reasonable steps as are warranted above.

Organisers should supply details of the date, time and place of the meeting, the names, addresses, and Colleges (if any) of the organisers, the name of the organisation making the arrangements, and the name of any expected speaker, whether or not a member of BCE. Information is required at least seven working days in advance (although the Managing Director may, at her/his discretion, agree to receive information closer to the time of the meeting than this). The Managing Director may cancel any meeting or event where the required information has not been provided seven working days in advance.

The organisers of meetings and events should comply with any conditions set by the Managing Director concerned with the arrangements for the conduct of the meeting. Such conditions may include a requirement that tickets should be issued, that an adequate number of stewards should be provided, that the police should be consulted about the arrangements, and that the time and place of the meeting should be changed. The cost of meeting the requirements, and the responsibility for fulfilling them, rests with the organisers.

The Managing Director will not seek to curtail or cancel a meeting or event unless in their considered opinion the meeting or event infringes on the legitimate rights and freedoms of others or poses a significant risk to health and safety or there is some other substantial and lawful ground for the curtailment or cancellation. The Managing Director will consult, where necessary, with the police about forthcoming meetings and events covered by the Code. In any case where serious disruption may be anticipated which may not be effectively addressed by any condition specified under paragraph 9 above, the Managing Director shall have power, having taken into consideration any advice received from the Marshal and/or police, to order or to advise the cancellation, postponement, or relocation of the meeting.

All decisions will be reached by the Managing Director following careful consideration of the evidence available to them and will be limited to those actions that are reasonable, proportionate and necessary to prevent crime or disorder, or otherwise protect the legitimate rights and freedoms of others

If an organiser is unhappy with the outcome of a decision of the Managing Director he or she may write to the Operations Director, setting out clear reasons for unhappiness with the decision and requesting a reconsideration of the decision.

Conduct at such meetings or events

The organisers and those in attendance at any meeting or event must comply with any reasonable instructions given during the course of a meeting or event by the Managing Director or other person authorised to act on behalf of BCE in the proper discharge of his or her duties, or by police.

It is the duty of every member, learner and employee of BCE not to impede any person entitled to be present from entering or leaving a place where the right to freedom of speech is being or is to be exercised. This duty is subject only to such conditions as may have been specified in accordance with the terms of this Policy or any limitations imposed or directions given by the police or other relevant public authority. 
Nothing in this Code shall be taken to prohibit the exercise of the right to protest by peaceful means; provided always that such protest is conducted lawfully within the general principles and other requirements of this Code, and the provisions of the BCE’s Regulations.

Other legal requirements

BCE is mindful of its pro-active duties under equality legislation. The right to freedom of speech is constrained by laws protecting others from discrimination, victimisation and harassment, protecting national security and public safety, preventing of disorder or crime, protecting the reputation and rights of others, and preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence.

Applications of the Code

Any person who is in any doubt about the application of this Code of Practice to any meeting, event or public gathering on BCE premises is under an obligation to consult the Managing Director, who will determine whether the provisions of the Code apply.