In a second similar case in recent days, a Christian street preacher has won £7,000 plus costs from Cumbria Police in settlement for a claim of wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisonment and breach of his human rights.
EXCLUSIVE: Arrest caught on camera
Dale Mcalpine, aged 42, of Workington in Cumbria brought the case against the police following his arrest on 20 April this year. The police have accepted they acted unlawfully.
Mr Mcalpine’s case was funded by The Christian Institute, a group that protects the civil liberty of Christians.
This case is the second of its kind in recent days. On 8 December Birmingham County Court ruled that West Midlands Police acted unlawfully when they arrested, handcuffed and detained street preacher Anthony Rollins. The court awarded Mr Rollins £4,250 and ordered the police to pay his legal costs.
Mr Mcalpine was preaching from the Bible in Workington town centre on 20 April 2010. He sermon contained no mention of homosexuality.
When he finished he was approached by Police Community Support Officer, Sam Adams, who identified himself as an ‘LBGT Liaison Officer’.
Even though Mr Mcalpine had never mentioned homosexuality, PCSO Adams warned him that he could be arrested if he made homophobic remarks.
Mr Mcalpine replied that he was not homophobic, but he sometimes preaches that homosexual conduct is a sin because that is what the Bible says.
Uniformed police officers were called to the scene and wrongly informed Mr Mcalpine that “it is against the law” to describe homosexual conduct as a sin.
PC Craig Hynes arrested Mr Mcalpine for a “racially aggravated Section 5 Public Order offence”. His arrest was recorded on a video camera.
The footage shows Mr Mcalpine asking the police to consider his rights to free speech. On 14 May the footage was published on YouTube by The Christian Institute.
Mr Mcalpine was taken to the police station and held in a cell pending interview. In total he was detained (from arrest to release on bail) for 7 hours 46 minutes.
He was charged with using “threatening, abusive or insulting” words “to cause harassment, alarm or distress” contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The charges were dropped at a later date.
He was released on bail on the condition that he must not preach in public pending the court case. Mr Mcalpine was due to preach in his church, Emmanuel Church, Workington, the following Sunday but had to cancel that because of the bail condition.
Homosexual campaigners have criticised the police action. In May Peter Tatchell told newspapers that the arrest was heavy-handed and an attack on free speech. He offered to appear as a defence witness if Mr Mcalpine was prosecuted.
Keith Porteous Wood, a homosexual and Executive Director of the National Secular Society, offered to appear as a witness in support of Mr Mcalpine’s civil action against the police.
Reacting to his settlement, Mr Mcalpine said: “I am pleased that this has been settled without going to court. I forgive the police for how they treated me and I hope that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“Despite my experience I still respect the police. I will pray for them because they have a difficult and sometimes dangerous job.”
Mr Mcalpine’s legal case was funded by The Christian Institute. Spokesman Mike Judge says Christians are being treated unfairly.
He said: “Mr Mcalpine was arrested and held in a cell for expressing his Christian views. This is Cumbria, not North Korea.
“Sadly, it’s not an isolated case. We have defended a number of Christians wrongfully arrested under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. There is a problem with the law and it needs to be fixed.”