No-platforming people could be ‘illegal’

According to a UK barrister

The highly debated no-platform policy adopted by student unions across the UK could be illegal, according to a top UK barrister.

Christopher McCall QC was commissioned to write a 37-page legal opinion by the National Union of Students. It found that no-platform policies are only legal when applied to members of a proscribed group such as terrorists. Otherwise, the policies breach Section 43 of the 1986 Education Act.

Malia Bouattia, the new President of the NUS

Malia Bouattia, the new President of the NUS

In the past student unions have used no-platforming to ban certain speakers on campus. Those outlawed include gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the feminist academic Germaine Greer. Students at Manchester who no-platformed Julie Bindel in October were technically acting illegally.

This comes at the same time a survey conducted by ComRes for the Victoria Derbyshire programme that found that 63 per cent of university students believe that the NUS has a right to no platform. It also found that 51 per cent of students believe that no-platforming should be used against people who could be found to be ‘intimidating’.

“The fundamental principle is that universities need to be places where the free exchange of views can happen, and we must do all we can to ensure that within the law,” said Colin Riordan, the Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, speaking to The Sunday Times.

The NUS has been mired in controversy over the past week, after it elected Malia Bouttia as its President, despite claims that she was anti-Semitic and has previously refused to condemn ISIS. She responded to this criticism over the weekend to deny the claims.

But students from unions across the country have launched campaigns to disaffiliate their SU from the National Union of Students.

According to The Sunday Times, the NUS said it could see “no reason” to amend its policy of no-platforming.