The case of a street preacher, who received compensation after being held in custody for 19 hours, proves we are free to air our views in public, a former Government minister has said.
Writing in her Daily Express column, Ann Widdecombe commented on the plight of 57-year-old John Craven who was arrested for public order offences after he quoted the Bible’s stance on homosexuality in answer to questions from two teenagers.
The Christian Institute funded Mr Craven’s case, and Miss Widdecombe highlighted the Institute’s view that this is “one of the worst cases it has encountered”.
“John Craven’s victory establishes the principle: that we are free to voice our beliefs without threat of arrest by bullying agents of the state”, she commented.
Miss Widdecombe also argued that this case is not “unique”.
She mentioned other Christian Institute cases including that of a café owner who was investigated by police after displaying Bible verses on a TV screen.
Police later apologised for the ‘manner’ of their investigation, but refused to say sorry for launching the inquiry.
And she highlighted Adrian Smith, a housing manager who was demoted and given a 40 per cent pay cut because he made a comment criticising gay marriage on his private Facebook page.
“A judge found in his favour, but he was not reinstated”, she explained.
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, also spoke out in support of Mr Craven.
He said, “free speech belongs to everybody, even those you disagree with, and so we support the right of street preachers to quote the Bible without having their collars felt”.
Mr Craven received £13,000 in compensation from Greater Manchester Police for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of his human rights.
The total cost for Greater Manchester Police, including both parties’ legal bills, will be over £50,000.
The settlement came a few days before the case was due in court.
The arrest happened in September 2011 after two teenagers asked Mr Craven for his views on homosexuals.
He was held in custody for several hours without food and water, or access to medication for his rheumatoid arthritis.