Christian couple sues police and council over free speech row
A Christian couple at the centre of a free speech row are suing their local council and police for breaching their human rights. Papers have been lodged with the County Court today (Monday 13 March). In December, retired couple Joe and Helen Roberts of Fleetwood in Lancashire, were interrogated by police officers because the couple had complained about their local council’s gay rights policy. The couple politely expressed their Christian belief that homosexual practice is morally wrong.
An official at Wyre Borough Council reported the couple to the police for making ‘homophobic’ comments. The council said they wanted the police to ‘educate’ the couple out of their beliefs. Two police officers knocked on the door of 73-year-old Joe and 68-year-old Helen, saying they wished to discuss problems caused by local youths. Once inside the house, the police revealed their real reason for the visit and proceeded to quiz the couple for 1 hour 20 minutes about their beliefs on homosexuality. Mr and Mrs Roberts say the officers told them they risked going to prison for up to seven years. The police have since confirmed that no crime was committed.
The couple have written several official letters of complaint to the council and the police. They have asked them to apologise for their actions or explain what legal grounds justified such actions. While the couple have received apologies for any distress caused, neither the police nor the council have apologised for their decision. Nor have they explained what legal grounds justified the police visit. The Roberts feel they have been left with no alternative but to seek remedy in the County Court.
The legal action claims that the actions of Wyre Borough Council and Lancashire Constabulary interfered with Mr and Mrs Roberts’ human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion under the Human Rights Act. It also claims that the council and the police were negligent, and that the police entered the Roberts’ home by means of a trick and were therefore trespassers.
The Christian Institute is supporting the legal action. Director, Colin Hart, said today: “It is outrageous that the police should tell an elderly Christian couple that they cannot express their moral views to their local council. It is astonishing that the council reported the matter to the police in the first place. I regret that neither the police nor the council have admitted they were wrong. They have refused to say sorry for what they did. We are supporting the Roberts case. It is an important case for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
Note: Any damages awarded to the Roberts will be donated to charity