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Freedom of speech not quite dead in the UK

Christian Street Preacher John Craven Receives £13,000 For Wrongful Arrest Over ‘Anti-Gay’ Comments

A street preacher arrested for reportedly spewing hateful verses on homosexuality has been awarded £13,000 for wrongful imprisonment, after police detained him for 19 hours.

John Craven, a Christian street preacher, settled the claim with Great Manchester police, who he alleged had denied him food, water and access to medication for his rheumatoid arthritis.

The Christian Institute, which funded the legal claim against the police said Craven had been directly asked what he thought of homosexuals by two gay teenagers, but had declined to give a view, and had instead “quoted from the Bible”, telling them that God hated the sin, He loves the sinner.

The two teens had then kissed in front of him.

The preacher was arrested under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalises the use of insulting words with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.

The police and their pals in the BBC try to spin the story as being mainly about how the police treated him in the cells. The conduct of our diversity-trained defenders of human rights towards a rheumatic old geezer with a public commitment to turning the other cheek was certainly worthy of notice. But it was also what they wanted you to notice. The police do not really mind being publicly repentant about neglecting to give a non-violent prisoner food, water or his medication for fifteen hours. No problem. Give the rozzers concerned a slap on the wrist, announce “mistakes were made” and “lessons will be learned”, and make yourselves another cup of tea.

The unacceptable behaviour on the part of the police that the force as an institution would prefer to mumble about when asked if it has learned its lesson is this:

“It appears that the actions of the police were calculated to give me and other street preachers the impression that we could not preach the gospel in public without breaking the law and if we did we would be arrested.”

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14 comments to Freedom of speech not quite dead in the UK

  • Incunabulum

    The preacher was arrested under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalises the use of insulting words with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.

    So, why weren’t the two teens *also* arrested?

  • Mr Ed

    It would be a start if the damages came out of the property of the police officers involved, so a swift bankruptcy would mean dismissal from the job, but in reality, damages just mean a tax hike and there are no adverse consequences at all for the police. It might be possible to bring a prosecution for battery for the arrest, which might at least leave a conviction on the individual’s record and enough of those might lead to dismissal.

    Those who warned against a police force as a weapon against freedom are entirely vindicated by this incident. The Soviet MVD would have recruited those ‘officers’ in an instant, having demonstrated the right mix of obedience, stupidity and cruelty and a hatred of freedom and any hint of bourgeois culture or values. Never trust a police officer, always remember this incident.

  • Zarba

    As goes (Formerly Great) Britain, so goes the USA. It’s just a matter of time before the Commissars of Human Rights (But Mostly Wrongs) unleash their brand of “tolerance” on the rest of us. “We’re tolerant of everyone who agrees with us…”

    One shudders to think of what Disraeli or Churchill would think of contemporary life in Britain.

    As Breitbart said, “Hit Back Twice As Hard”

  • Eric

    The preacher was arrested under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalises the use of insulting words with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.

    Wow. What a slippery statute. You can arrest someone for saying pretty much anything under that standard – it’s entirely subjective.

  • Nick BTF! Gray

    I wonder when this will be applied to election campaigns, with their negative advertising? Would you be allowed to mention any mistakes the government made? Or anything they didn’t get around to doing? This sounds a bit like the part of Australia’s laws that our current Government is trying to modify.

  • James Strong

    It’s not enough to take damages off the police as an institution.
    Action should be taken against the individual officers who carried out the arrest, and against the sergeant or other supervisor at the station who condoned rhe action and arranged for the prisoner to go into the cells. and against every custody officer who didn’t ensure proper treatment, and against the chief constable who has failed to set proper policy.
    You’ll get much better decisions if there is an accountable name on a document rather than ‘police policy is…’ in an institutional and impersonal way.

  • RogerC

    Free speech isn’t quite dead yet, it’s true, but someone’s holding a pillow over its face. They’re working on it.

    @Eric

    Wow. What a slippery statute. You can arrest someone for saying pretty much anything under that standard – it’s entirely subjective.

    It seems to me that more and more legislation is written that way. Vague enabling statutes where the precise meaning is worked out in court only when someone challenges it. Since that’s often a risky proposition, it discourages the practice.

  • MikeR

    The only way to curtail this sort of thing is for people like this unfortunate gentleman to take it further – to get proper disciplinary action against those responsible, and begin a campaign to change the law. Note that this legislation – a general subjective evidential based law which basically gives them the power to arrest anyone for anything, isn’t from the NuLabour era, but the Thatch years. Of course, Straw and co added a lot more legislation of this sort onto the books. Dave’s alleged “Tories” are no better, with their complete failure to repeal or amend any of these totalitarian laws. And they are introducing still more of them with their utterly evil parent imprisonment bill.

  • Mr Ed

    Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 was brought in in 1994, by Mr Major. It is 20 years old.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64/section/4A

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Exactly the same thing is happening up in my neck of the woods.

    Supposedly a woman got into a verbal altercation with this guy over how her son was gay, and this apparently made his opinion and reading of the bible invalid. Her response to his refusal to agree with her was to phone the police.

    In another case locally another preacher was arrested for preaching loudly (breach of the peace) despite him not using amplification and there being buskers making more noise nearby without complaint. He had been heckled for some time by passers by, and when he refused to stop preaching they phoned the police on him.

    The thing I find really troubling about all this is not the authoritarian state. It is that there are many people in the UK whose response to hearing someone say things they disagree with is to phone the police. The sickness isn’t just in the government, it is everywhere.

  • AKM

    JV: “It is that there are many people in the UK whose response to hearing someone say things they disagree with is to phone the police. The sickness isn’t just in the government, it is everywhere.”

    There have always been people who would do that. But in more sensible times the Police would have just calmed things down but would not have considered it worth their time to arrest anyone.

  • Rob

    How can you discipline police officers for arresting someone based on a written Law? If you are going to discipline anyone, try the idiots who wrote and passed it.

  • Mr Ed

    And now we have a man acquitted of murder carted off to jail after acquittal in case there are any outstanding legal issues against him. My emphasis added in bold.

    “The comment I was told from one of the senior prison officers was that ‘this case is of a high media profile and we don’t want to release him in error’.

    “He doesn’t get the experience of walking out the front doors of the Old Bailey.”

    In a statement, the Ministry of Justice said it did not comment on individual cases.

    It added: “Public safety is our priority and prisons must be satisfied there are no outstanding legal issues before releasing an acquitted prisoner.”

    No, it is false imprisonment to detain someone without lawful authority.