Police say sorry for interrogating Christian couple about moral beliefs
Police in Lancashire have settled out of court with a Christian couple who were interrogated last year about their moral beliefs, it has been announced today.
Wyre Borough Council in Lancashire have also settled out of court and apologised to the couple for faulty procedures that allowed an individual Council officer to report the matter to the Police.
In December last year Joe and Helen Roberts of Fleetwood, near Blackpool in Lancashire, telephoned their local council to complain about public money being spent on a new project to promote gay rights. The couple asked for Christian literature to be displayed alongside ‘gay rights’ literature. They were astonished when the Council refused. During the telephone conversation Mrs Roberts expressed her religious belief that homosexual practice is morally wrong.
The couple were shocked to receive a subsequent visit from two police officers who questioned them in their own home for one hour and 20 minutes about their beliefs, even though no crime had been committed.
Backed by The Christian Institute, the Roberts sought apologies from the Police and the Council. The Roberts’ intention was to protect free speech and to ensure that similar cases didn’t happen to other Christians.
When the Police and the Council refused to admit they acted wrongly the Roberts launched a legal action. They sued the Police and the Council for, amongst other things, interfering with their rights to free speech and religious liberty. A trial date had been set for 17 January 2007 in the High Court.
But now the Police and the Council have settled the matter out of court. The Police and the Council will pay legal costs and will also pay compensation to Joe and Helen Roberts. The Roberts will give all compensation money to a Christian charity.
The Police admit they should have investigated the matter further before deciding to send two police officers to the Roberts’ home. They also admit that if they had made further enquiries, it is likely they would have decided not to send the officers. The Police said they have revised their policy specifically to avoid cases like the Roberts’ happening in the future.
Wyre Borough Council admit that they should never have allowed an individual council officer to make a complaint to the Police without clearance from a senior official. They have revised their procedures accordingly.
Joe and Helen Roberts said, “We are delighted at the result. It has been a long year battling this case and we are so pleased that common sense has prevailed.”
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said, “This is a tremendous victory for free speech and religious liberty. It will help protect Christians everywhere and preserve our liberty to publicly express our beliefs. We are particularly thankful for the very positive attitude of Lancashire Police in bringing this case to a successful conclusion. The Police have made it clear that the door is open for further discussion about how they can improve their policy in this area. I hope that this will go a long way to restoring the confidence of Christians in Lancashire as to how similar incidents will be dealt with in the future. There are lessons to be learnt for police forces everywhere and I particularly hope that they will take note of the Roberts case. We will continue to be very vigilant.”