A Christian evangelist has been found not guilty of a public order offence after he handed out leaflets criticising Tesco’s decision to donate £30,000 to the 2012 London Gay Pride parade.
Raj Bhachoo, a Christian Voice member, was arrested, kept in a police cell for hours and charged with “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 following a complaint by the manageress during a leafleting exercise outside the Tesco store in Gravesend, Kent in January 2012
The case was due to be heard by Dartford Magistrates this morning. But on reviewing the evidence and recent legal decisions including that involving Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, the prosecuting barrister offered no evidence.
The magistrates duly dismissed the case.
Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, was asked by the defence to give evidence in the case, but, for the second time in a case involving Mr Bhachoo, his evidence was in the event not required.
Mr Green also prepared expert evidence for a case in March of this year when Raj Bhachoo was acquitted after sending a highly critical email to the Stonewall lobby group. A key Stonewall witness failed to turn up in court and the case collapsed.
Michael Phillips, solicitor, represented Raj Bhachoo on both occasions.
Just a week ago, Mr Phillips represented two Christians from the Abort67 group, seeing all charges against them thrown out by magistrates in Brighton. Last February, Michael Overd faced a trial in Taunton after two homosexuals objected to his preaching. Mr Overd, who subsequently joined Christian Voice, was also acquitted.
In September 2006, Stephen Green was himself arrested, locked in the cells for four hours and charged under the same Section 5 by the South Wales Police Minorities Support Unit for handing out evangelistic leaflets at the homosexual Cardiff Mardi Gras. At the subsequent hearing, an embarrassed prosecutor dropped all charges.
Stephen Green said today: ‘Christians just keep winning these Section 5 freedom of speech cases. It is not against the law to preach against sodomy, to tell the public the facts about homosexual lifestyles, nor to display graphic images of the effects of abortion. These things might upset people, but they are not threatening, they are not abusive, they are not insulting and they are not against the law.
‘We actually need no change in the law, but we do need police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to provide training to officers and prosecutors on the law and on their duty to protect people exercising their freedom of expression.
‘In the abortion case, the police officer who attended admitted in court that the only training he had ever had on the implications of freedom of speech was ten years ago.’
(From the expert witness statement prepared by Stephen Green for Raj Bhachoo in the Camberwell Green Magistrates Court 7th March 2012)
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