CPS drops charges against Cumbria Street Preacher

And quite right to. Since when was it against the law to quote the Bible?

A Christian street preacher arrested and hauled before the courts for saying homosexuality was sinful has had the charge against him dropped.

Dale Mcalpine, 42, was held in a cell for seven hours before being charged with a public order offence for telling a gay police community support officer that he believed homosexuals were going against the word of God.

But yesterday he was celebrating ‘a victory for common sense’ after the case was dropped.

Mr Mcalpine said: ‘It was a ridiculous charge and I should never have been arrested in the first place.’

On April 20 Mr Mcalpine was talking to shoppers and handing out leaflets in Workington, in Cumbria.

Hewas allegedly warned he was committing an offence by PCSO Sam Adams – his force’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender liaison officer – who said there had been complaints .

After an exchange in which Mr Mcalpine said that ‘the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator, but it was not against the law to say this’, the officer called for assistance and Mr Mcalpine was arrested.

Mr Mcalpine, who works in the energy industry, said he told the officers that while he was not homophobic, he did believe homosexuality was a sin and there was no law against saying so.

He had his fingerprints, a retina scan and a DNA swab taken, and was placed in a cell for seven hours before being charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress contrary to the Public Order Act 1986.

He appeared before magistrates in the town the following week where he pleaded not guilty to the charge and vowed to fight it.

Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge.

Now personally I wouldn’t do street preaching on this subject (seems rather a waste of time) but I think the law needs to defend those who do.  Interestingly, there is now live video footage available of the moment of arrest. To be honest, I think Mcalpine could do with a quick brush up on the law. The amendment was moved a while back by Lord Waddington and is still on the statute book. The Waddington amendment (29JA) to the 2008 Criminal Justice Bill reads:

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.

Pretty clear cut I think and any attempt to arrest as a “racially motivated” Section 5 Public Order offence is just silly. I hope they sue for compensation.

Here’s the footage.

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12 Comments on “CPS drops charges against Cumbria Street Preacher

  1. Good outcome. Should never have got this far, of course.

    Striking how many of these civil liberties cases (photographers arrested for photographing Nelson's Column, that sort of thing) seem to involve PCSOs. Does rather support the stereotype of PCSOs as under-trained toy-town coppers with ideas above their station…
    My recent post “The kindness of social justice”

  2. From watching the clip, it's worrying how little the police officers concerned seem to know of the law.

    • Police officers are not generally well-educated people. They are taught a certain amount of the law – key sections of key statutes – in order to carry out arrests. But they are not taught to think, let alone think for themselves. “If in doubt arrest the bastard, and we will charge him with something that will stick” – obstruction, resisting arrest, you name it. They only get the message when the Chief Constable is sued and has to pay out a very large amount in compensation for wrongful arrest. Then all the local Plods get a memorandum warning them not to do it again.

  3. Peter: I'm not sure he was preaching on homosexuality, I think the only reference to it came in conversation with the PCSO and the real police.

    There's a fair amount of this that bother me. For example, the lack of understanding of the law by the PCSO, the police, and the preacher. If you are going to do something that is likely to attract police involvement, make sure you know what you can, and can't, do – photographers in London have had similar 'attention' and there are resources available for them. It's not hard to print out the Waddington amendment.

    What I don't understand is how he could be arrested for a 'racially aggravated' Section 5 offence.
    My recent post Less hopeful?

    • Hi HO,

      The lack of understanding of the law is something that street preachers need to be aware of. It's not good enough to say "that law that that lord passed". Quote the exact section of which Bill and you find that good police will have a good think

        • It seems incredibly sad to me that anyone should have to know the legal codes in order to avoid arrest for merely speaking (in a non-threatening way), however 'offensive' someone else might find their views.

          Where has "free speech" gone…

  4. Mr Mcalpine wasn't even preaching that homosexuality is a sin. This was merely mentioned in a private exchange later. Amazing how quickly the LGBT police were on the scene! It brought to mind how witchhunters in Africa go around 'sniffing out' potential witches to bring terror to the population.

    They will have their work cut out during gay hand-holding week, which starts today, in case ordinary law-abiding citizens are foolish enough to show any signs of disapproval.

    I understand that Mr M is considering suing for wrongful arrest. I hope he does.

  5. Isn't there something a bit fishy here? The article –http://www.christian.org.uk/news/exclusive-video-… – says that the footage is recorded with "a hidden camera" – but it's not indicated who owned the camera, why it was placed there, etc. etc.. It sort of sounds like the guy suspected beforehand that he might be approached by the police, & that he was being very careful. It would have been helpful if the article gave more information about the placement of the hidden camera.

  6. The real issue behind this is not the arrest: it's the fact that Mr McAlpine's DNA is now on the police database, and it will be Old Harry's own job to get them to remove it…

  7. Interesting to note that Peter Tatchell has defended Mr McAlpine's right to express his opinions as a matter of freedom of speech. Form all accounts it seems he was not inciting anyone to homophobic violence, which no one should defend.

    There is an interesting comment about Peter Tatchell giving an example of 'loving his enemy' – "Peter Tatchell is showing Christians how to be more like Jesus" by Jonathan Bartley in Ekklesiahttp://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12170

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