A street preacher wrongly arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin has won substantial damages as U.K. police chiefs issue new guidelines telling officers to be more thick-skinned.
(reported by Jonathan Petre, Daily Mail)
Dale Mcalpine was held for seven hours and charged with a public-order offence in April after telling a gay police community support officer (PCSO) that he believed homosexuals were acting against the word of God. He was accused of uttering ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ words ‘to cause harassment, alarm or distress’ contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.
But the charges were dropped after the case was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday and now police in Cumbria have agreed to pay him £7,000 in compensation as well as his legal costs, potentially an extra £10,000.
The payout came as new national guidance was issued to police following growing criticism of their heavy-handed treatment of Christians expressing their religious views.
Keeping The Peace, published by the Association of Chief Police Officers, says officers must be aware that the right to free speech allows people to express unpopular views as long as ‘their conduct is reasonable or the actual or potential violence provoked in others is “wholly unreasonable” ’.
Pressure is mounting on the Government to reform the Public Order Act when it introduces its Freedom Bill in the New Year. Campaigners want the word ‘insulting’ removed from Section 5 of the Act because they believe it leaves street preachers and others vulnerable to arrest.
At a magistrates’ court hearing his trial date was set for September, but coverage of his treatment provoked a public outcry.
Mr Mcalpine said last night: ‘I am delighted the police are going to apologise. It is not about the money but about freedom of speech. I hope the police will in future do their duty defending freedom of speech.’
The Christian Institute, which backed his case, said: ‘We’re obviously pleased that Cumbria Police has seen common sense. But Mr Mcalpine should not have been arrested in the first place. Sadly, it’s not an isolated case. The Government needs to amend the Public Order Act as a matter of urgency.’
Earlier this month, street preacher Anthony Rollins, who was handcuffed and arrested for condemning homosexuality, was awarded £4,250 in damages following a court case against West Midlands Police. Even homosexual rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called for reform of the law.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1339843/Homosexuality-sin-street-preacher-wins-7k-police