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More protection of street preachers from the police?

More protection of street preachers from the police?

At the end of November an important judgement was passed by the European Court on Human Rights against the UK. It’s a bit complex but basically the UK – or the Met Police – was found to have ignored the right of free speech of a person before making an arrest. 

The UK courts threw out a wrongful arrest claim by the journalist but the EHCR decided that the police acted inappropriately and failed to take into freedom of speech before making the arrest. This judgement can provide a great defence for street preachers and other Christians who are increasingly being targeted by the police for their views and beliefs.

Let take a closer look at the case in hand

Pal v UK [2021] ECHR 990

The case involved the Met Police when they got involved in a spat between two medical journalists. These were Dr Rita Pal and Andrew Bousfield. 

In July 2014 Dr Pal wrote a pretty negative article about Bousfield, making references to various court cases etc and at the end asking readers to send any information they had on him to her.  In November 2014 she also sent out a number of tweets about him, though not naming him directly. 

On 9th December Bousfield made a complaint to the police about her activities.  On 18th December the Met Police visited Dr Pal’s home and arrested her. She was taken back to London and questioned for 7 hours. 

On 22nd January 2015 Dr Pal was charged with harassment. In August 2015 the CPS decided to drop the case so it did not go to court.

In the CPS file review, it was viewed that the original article was  “an informative piece” which was “derived simply from other information within the public domain” and was “presented by a journalist with a view to present facts than [sic] that must be permitted with freedom of speech rights under art 10”. The CPS also decided that because the tweets did not name Bousfield then they could not be deemed to be harassment.

In 2018 Dr Pal attempted to make civil claims against the Met Police for wrongful arrest. This was denied by the High Court and also later in the year at the Court of Appeal.

This led to the case being heard in the  Fourth Section of the Court of Human Rights in Strasburg.

The findings

The findings of the Court was unanimous. The judges ruled that the arresting police officer, the charging police officer, nor the domestic courts had given any consideration to the freedom of speech rights of Dr Pal. There was no attempt to balance the rights of speech of Dr Pal against the rights of Bousfield or the attempt to prevent crime or disorder. 

Dr Pal was awarded Eu2,500 in damages.

The impact on freedom of speech

This is a big decision that will help Christians in the UK to preach the gospel and speak out on contentious issues of the day. In a world where the UK police is becoming increasingly woke and getting more involved with policing statements than fighting crime this is a warning from the highest court in Europe for the police to consider both sides of an argument or stance.

The implication are substantial in a whole range of areas where statements are made by politicians, activists, religious leaders and simply the general public. For the last 10 years and, in particular, the last 5 years the police have become political and biased in favour of woke activists. They see themselves as thought control officers, shutting down and arresting anyone who does not agree with the woke agenda. 

This judgement by the European Court of Human Rights will remind them that they are there to undertake their duties in a fair and responsible way. The police are not, and never should be, the strong arm of activists.

There’s only one time that the police should get involved during arguments and statements and that is when there is a direct and clear threat or call to violence. The police really should not be getting involved when someone’s feeling gets hurt – there are far too many real crimes that need to be investigated.

This political action by the police is not just confined to the ultra-woke Met Police. The police force in the UK with the highest recorded non-crime hate incidents – where no crime was committed but someone felt offended – is South Wales Police when measured on a per head of population. 

These non-crime hate incidents where no wrong has been done can go onto someone’s criminal record and have a real impact on someone’s future employment. 

With this judgement from the European Courts on Human Rights the police have to take into account both sides and treat each side with equal validity and not just follow their woke commanders.


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