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10:02 | 17th December 2017

News: UK

Mon 17 May, 2010
By Danielle Carter


Despite my opposition to his opinions, I defend his right to freedom of expression.

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Preacher case dropped after Tatchell offers to testify for defence

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The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped all charges against homophobic Christian street preacher, Dale McAlpine, shortly after gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell offered to testify in defence of his right to free speech.

Mr McAlpine, 42, was arrested in a street in Workington on 20 April, after condemning homosexuality as a sin. He was charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, contrary to the Public Order Act 1986.

"Although I disagree with Dale McAlpine and support protests against his homophobic views, he should not have been arrested and charged.

Criminalisation is a step too far.

"Despite my opposition to his opinions, I defend his right to freedom of expression.

"Soon after I offered to appear as a defence witness and to argue in court for Mr McAlpine's acquittal, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case. The sudden withdrawal of charges may have been mere coincidence but perhaps not.

"Mr McAlpine should have never been prosecuted in the first place. While the arresting officer may have acted with well-meaning intentions, he was over-zealous and interpreted the law in a harsh, authoritarian manner.

"Although clearly homophobic, Mr McAlpine did not express his opinion in a way that was aggressive, threatening or intimidating.

"I am surprised and shocked that the CPS allowed the case to proceed at all. The Public Order Act is meant to protect people from harm. Dale McAlpine's views are misguided and offensive but I see no evidence that they caused harm to anyone.

"I urge the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to issue new guidelines, making it clear that the police should not arrest people for expressing prejudiced views in a non-threatening and non-aggressive manner. Prosecutions should only proceed in extreme circumstances. The police should concentrate on tackling serious, harmful crimes, such as racist, homophobic and sexist violence.

"Causing offence to others is not a legitimate basis for putting a person on trial.

"Nearly everyone holds opinions that someone else might find offensive. If offending others is accepted as a basis for prosecution, most of the population of the UK would end up in court.

"Freedom of speech means accepting the right of other people to say things that we may find disagreeable and even offensive. Unless people make untrue libellous comments or incite violence, they should not be criminalised for expressing their opinions," said Mr Tatchell.

 

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