Friday, 17 December 2010
Christian street preacher wins award for false arrest
The actual facts of the arrest of the case were recorded on video and make disturbing viewing. Among the the first words of the police when they arrive is:
"Hello sir. What have you been saying, homophobic wise ?"
This is barely English, let alone a question that can be answered by someone about to be arrested. Matters got worse:
"Preacher: I spoke to your officer earlier and he was upset that I was saying homosexuality was a sin – which is what the Bible says. And I affirm that’s what I say because that’s in the Bible. And there’s no law, there’s no law…
Policeman: Well there is.
Preacher: No there isn’t.
Policeman: There is. Unfortunately, mate, it’s a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act"
Well, actually, constable, it is just isn't and you are an ignoramus for knowing so little about the law that you were claiming to arrest someone for! And to cap it all the arresting officer actually arrests him for a "racially aggravated public order offence". Yep - racially aggravated! You just can't make this stuff up!
Nevertheless, the preacher was arrested, taken to a police station, made to give his DNA and fingerprints and eventually charged. What then happened? Err...well.... all the charges were dropped. Straight away. Like that.
Why? Once the facts of the case were examined by Crown Prosecutors, lawyers and police officers who were capable of using more than one brain cell at a time, it became blatantly obvious that there was no such law as the heavy-handed officers of the law had falsely claimed.
How could this be contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act? It has never been any part of the Public Order Act to decide what is or is not "a sin" and it is not illegal to say that any form of behaviour is "a sin". So - were the 3 police officers and 2 PCSOs involved in this situation just plain stupid or is there a problem with the wording of the law itself?
Section 5 actually reads as follows:
"Public Order Act 1986, s. 5 Harassment, alarm and distress
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he–
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove–
(a) that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c) that his conduct was reasonable.
S6(4)Mental element: miscellaneous)
A person is guilty of an offence under section 5 only if he intends his words or behaviour, or the writing, sign or other visible representation, to be threatening, abusive or insulting, or is aware that it may be threatening, abusive or insulting or (as the case may be) he intends his behaviour to be or is aware that it may be disorderly"
So the Police had to decide that Mr Mcalpine was using "threatening, abusive or insulting words" when he said that "homosexuality was a sin". There is no legal definition of "threatening, abusive or insulting" and the words are to be taken in their normal and natural meaning. Clearly, the phrase "homosexuality is a sin" is not "threatening", nor "abusive". Someone might, conceivably, consider it "insulting". But should it be an offence to use words that are merely subjectively insulting?
Where does that end? Is it criminal? In fact the judge in the Rollins case used his commons sense and came to the conclusion that Mr Rollins had been wrongly arrested and had been assaulted. The question has but to be stated for its answer to be obvious. Of course, it cannot and should not be criminal. In fact, it is simply not criminal. The police officers were simply off on a crazy frolic of their own.
The proper view must be that the words "threatening, abusive or insulting" ought to be taken together, that the preacher could not be said to have caused "alarm, harassment or distress" and/or his conduct was perfectly reasonable (per s.5(3)(c)). Doubtless, the CPS came to their conclusion for these or similar reasons and the charges had to be dropped.
There have been numerous similar incidents of police over-reaction to complaints of Homophobia, Islamaphobia, racism etc and the reason for this is the abysmally low standard of training of police officers regarding the dubious concept of "hate crime". Common sense and the right to freedom of speech seem to have been left on the shelf at the police station.
Now view the video and see what I mean. The uniformed official grinning vacantly in the background is apparently the PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) who had actually called the police to report the preacher for "Homophobia" (which is not an offence known to the law).
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