Victory for evangelist in freedom of speech case
A Christian evangelist was this week cleared of criminal charges by Dartford Magistrates Court after being arrested for distributing leaflets outside a Tesco supermarket.
Mr Bachoo was temporarily imprisoned and charged with public order offences in January after handing out leaflets disapproving of Tesco’s decision to fund the 2012 Gay Pride parade outside its Metro store in Gravesend.
He was due to stand trial on Tuesday (24 September) for allegedly using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” under section 5 of the Public Order Act but magistrates dismissed the case after the prosecuting barrister failed to give evidence.
Responding to the decision the National Director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, said:
“Christians just keep winning these Section 5 freedom of speech cases. It is not against the law to preach against sodomy, to tell the public the facts about homosexual lifestyles, nor to display graphic images of the effects of abortion. These things might upset people, but they are not threatening, they are not abusive, they are not insulting and they are not against the law.
“We actually need no change in the law, but we do need police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to provide training to officers and prosecutors on the law and on their duty to protect people exercising their freedom of expression.
“In the abortion case, the police officer who attended admitted in court that the only training he had ever had on the implications of freedom of speech was ten years ago”.
Mr Bachoo was supported by solicitor Michael Philips, who also represented Christian Legal Centre clients Andy Stephenson and Kathryn Attwood. They were cleared of public order offences by Brighton Magistrates Court last week (13 September) after standing trial for peacefully demonstrating outside a BPAS abortion clinic in Brighton.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
“A number of Christians have been arrested under Section 5 of the Public Order Act and sometimes imprisoned by the police, only for the charges against them to be dropped later.
“Mr Bachoo’s victory and that of Andrew Stephenson and Kathryn Attwood demonstrate that Christians are well within their rights to speak out on important issues”.