Case of Christian street preacher who was in police custody for over 19 hours for quoting the Bible settles
Police who wrongfully arrested a Christian street preacher and detained him in custody for over 19 hours have settled the claim for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of his human rights.
Greater Manchester Police incarcerated 57-year-old John Craven and accused him of public order offences after he quoted the Bible to two homosexual teenagers.
After police placed him in custody he was denied food, water and access to medication for his rheumatoid arthritis for almost 15 hours.
Mr Craven will now receive £13,000 in compensation. The total cost for Greater Manchester Police, including both parties’ legal bills, will be over £50,000. This settlement comes a few days before the case was due in court.
Mr Craven was supported in his claim by The Christian Institute through its Legal Defence Fund.
Mr Craven has been street preaching for seven years and is no stranger to Manchester’s city centre, where he speaks a couple of times a week.
In September 2011, he was preaching on salvation through Christ and quoting one of the most famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16.
Two teenage boys then approached him and asked Mr Craven what he thought of gays. He put down his microphone and said to them that what he thought didn’t matter but what mattered was what God thought.
Seeking to give an honest account of what the Bible says, Mr Craven also quoted the Bible’s stance on homosexuality but added that everyone has sinned and that “whilst God hates sin He loves the sinner”. The teenagers responded, he explained, by kissing in front of him and taunting him with crude and suggestive sexual acts.
He was then arrested by Police Constable Alistair McKittrick for a public order offence, after the two teenagers told the officer that they felt insulted by Mr Craven’s comments.
In his witness statement, Mr Craven said that after the police constable dismounted from his horse, he “grabbed” him ‘roughly by the arm’ and said that he was under arrest for “public order offences”.
Mr Craven said that “The officer did not ask for my name or address…I remained calm and co-operative even though I was being handled very roughly by the police officer.”
The police, however, claimed that the arrest was necessary for “a prompt and effective investigation”, but Mr Craven said they failed to tell him this at the time of the arrest.
Under the European Convention on Human Rights Mr Craven is entitled to enjoy the freedom to manifest his religion (Article 9) and freedom of expression, including the freedom to impart information and ideas without interference by a public authority (Article 10).
Mr Craven was put in a cell without the offer of food and drink. He later told the custody officer that he had rheumatoid arthritis for which he takes medicine and asked if his medicine could be brought to him – a request which he says was ignored.
After almost 15 hours, he was finally given a bowl of cereal and a microwave meal following a complaint to the police from his friend, criticising the outrageous treatment.
Mr Craven said: “I never intended to cause anyone harassment, alarm or distress. In fact, quite the opposite. I preach the gospel which means good news and the love of God for all.
“The actions of the police have left me feeling nervous and anxious. I found the whole episode extremely distressing…
“It appears that the actions of the police were calculated to give me and other street preachers the impression that we could not preach the gospel in public without breaking the law and if we did we would be arrested.”
Mr Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “Nobody should face 19 hours in custody for simply answering a question about their beliefs.
“The disgraceful way in which Mr Craven was treated fell well below what the public deserve. In terms of the infringement of religious liberty, it was one of the worst cases we have ever dealt with.
“Freedom of expression is a very basic human right. The very foundations of our liberty depend upon it. I hope that Greater Manchester Police learn lessons for the future from this case and make every effort to ensure that it never happens again.
“I am delighted for Mr Craven that a settlement has been reached.”
Note to editors:
Mr Craven was arrested for an offence under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 which criminalises the use of insulting words with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.
Section 4A requires intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress unlike section 5, which requires intention to use threatening or abusive words or behaviour.
Section 5 was recently amended by Parliament because of the large number of cases where free speech had been infringed. Campaigners said at the time that Section 4A might also need to be amended.
As a result of the reform of Section 5, the College of Policing has issued new guidance telling officers that they are not allowed to arrest people simply because others find their words or behaviour insulting.
The Christian Institute
The Christian Institute is a non-denominational registered charity, which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK.
It was founded in 1990 by Christian church leaders and professionals and it currently campaigns on a range of issues including marriage and the family, pro-life concerns, drugs, religious liberty and education, as well as Christianity and the constitution.