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Christian street preacher wins damages

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A Christian street preacher has been awarded £4,250 in damages following a Court’s decision on 8 December 2010 that it was wrong for police to have arrested and handcuffed him after he preached against homosexuality.

Anthony Rollins, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, was quoting from 1 Corinthians 6 verses 9 and 10 (condemning the ‘unrighteous’) in Birmingham city centre in June 2008 when a member of the public took offence, shouted “homophobic bigot” and complained to the police that his language was “hugely offensive”.

After the police arrived at the scene they proceeded to handcuff Mr Rollins without any further inquiry and put him in a cell for nearly four hours.

Mr Rollins was charged with breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act but the charges were dropped before the case came to trial. He subsequently decided to sue West Midlands Police after a complaint he made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission about his treatment was rejected. His claims of wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisonment, assault and battery and the infringement of his human rights were upheld by the Court.

Judge Lance Ashworth QC, sitting at Birmingham County Court, said the arrest demonstrated a “lack of thoughtfulness” and police who made it acted “as a matter of routine without any thought being given to Mr. Rollins’ Convention Rights [to free speech and religious liberty].”

“This was not done in any way maliciously, spitefully or arrogantly. It was done unthinkingly,” he said.

The Judge also criticised Mr Edwards, the member of the public who had made the initial complaint, and who had appeared in court as a witness for the police.

“I was not impressed by Mr. Edwards as a witness.  He struck me as a man, full of his own self-importance, who in the witness box relished the attention and greatly embellished his evidence.

“In every respect where his evidence is at odds with the evidence of other witnesses I reject it,” he added.

Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said: "I am glad that damages have been awarded. We must fight to protect freedom of speech and in particular the right to preach on the streets and quote from the Bible. There are many that would like to see that historic right taken away."

Mike Judge, spokesman for the Christian Institute, the organisation supporting the case, said:

“Street preachers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is part of our Christian heritage. Most people just walk on by and ignore it. The police have no business arresting Christians for quoting the Bible.

“Whether you agree with Mr Rollins’ beliefs or not, surely we all value free speech. Christians are tired of being put on trial for their beliefs. There is clearly a problem with the Public Order Act and it needs fixing.”

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 outlaws "insulting" conduct. The Christian Institute is campaigning for the word "insulting" to be removed from Section 5, as part of the forthcoming Freedom Bill. You can learn more about their campaign here.

In March 2010 similar charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when another Christian preacher, Dale Mcalpine, was arrested by a homosexual police officer for saying that homosexuality is against the word of God.  He was held in a cell for several hours before being charged with a public order offence. The CPS said that preaching peacefully that homosexuality is a sin is not against the law.

In September 2010 the CPS also withdrew its case against Paul Shaw, a Christian street preacher, who had been charged under public order legislation for ‘offending’ homosexuals.  Mr Shaw was charged by Essex Police with a ‘hate crime’ after an election leaflet was distributed in Colchester that called for a review of whether homosexual acts should remain legal.


Daily Mail
Christian Institute
Christian Post
Hodge Jones & Allen

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