Last Updated: 7 July 2006
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Street preacher convicted by magistrates for displaying a sign saying homosexuality is immoral


Summary

A street preacher from Bournemouth was convicted by magistrates of a public order offence because he held a sign saying homosexuality was immoral.

An elderly street preacher from Bournemouth was subjected to assault and ridicule whilst proclaiming his Christian views in the town centre. Harry Hammond, 69, suffered from Asperger syndrome (a type of autism), making communication with others difficult for him. In October 2001, Mr Hammond was preaching in Bournemouth town centre holding a sign bearing the words, 'Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord'.1

The sign drew an angry crowd of around 40 people who became violent towards Mr Hammond for displaying what they saw as an insulting message. The situation resulted in Harry Hammond being forced to the ground where some people poured mud and water on him. When two police officers arrived at the scene, there was a disagreement as to whether they should protect him or arrest him; eventually Mr Hammond was arrested.2 No violent members of the crowd were arrested.

Subsequently, Harry Hammond was charged and prosecuted under the Public Order Act 1986; he was fined £300 plus £395 costs.3 Sadly, Mr Hammond later died. Despite a posthumous appeal at the High Court acknowledging that Mr Hammond should have the right to freedom of religion and the freedom to express his beliefs, it was ruled that Harry Hammond had acted unreasonably in holding up a sign he knew to be offensive.4 A further appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was dismissed.

  • 1The Mail on Sunday, 28 April, 2002
  • 2The Mail on Sunday, 5 May, 2002
  • 3The Mail on Sunday, 28 April, 2002
  • 4Hammond v DPP [2004] EWHC 69 (Admin), paras 31-34

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