Dale McAlpine has been doing weekend street evangelism in the north of England for a number of years. On April 20th he got into conversation with a passer-by in which he named homosexuality among a number of sins condemned in 1 Corinthians 6. He was overheard by a Police Community Service Officer who happened to be his force's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender liaison officer and introduced himself as such. He called for assistance. And when three police officers arrived this is what happened:
The following is from today's Daily Mail:
He was then arrested by the [smiling!!] uniformed officers and taken to a police station where officers took his fingerprints, a retina scan and a DNA swab.
He was placed in a cell for seven hours [where apparently he sang hymns as loudly as possible] before being charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress contrary to the Public Order Act 1986 [a law designed for drunken louts in town centres].
He appeared before magistrates in the town the following week where he pleaded not guilty to the charge and vowed to fight it.
But yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge after deciding not to continue with the case.
Chief Superintendent Steve Johnson, of Cumbria Police, said: 'Our officers and staff often have to make difficult decisions while balancing the law and people’s rights. This is not easy especially when opinions and interpretations differ [and especially when officers introduce themselves as minority rights activists!!].
'We would like to reassure the public that we respect, and are committed to upholding, the fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Ok, thanks Chief Superintendent, I'm reassured by that. But wait - he goes on...
'We are just as committed to maintaining the peace and preventing people feeling alarmed or distressed by the actions of others in public places.
Yikes - the CPS have thrown it out, but from where Cumbria police stand they continue to see it as a 50-50 split between freedom of expression and 'preventing people feeling alarmed'.
Preventing people feeling alarmed!
Sleep easy tonight Cumbria. The sword will still be wielded as often as not to ensure that none of you are alarmed or distressed by the views of soft-spoken evangelists.
Anyway well done Dale, you're a total legend! And three pieces of advice for street preachers - 1) tape yourselves; 2) learn by heart section 29JA of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008:
29JA Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)
In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.
thanks Paul for directing us to this
...and 3) go here for more legal info.