Street Preachers Win Permission to Appeal Over Police Arrests
Mike Overd, Don Kams, Mike Stockwell, and AJ Clarke, street preachers in Bristol, have won the right to appeal their cases. Overd’s original case goes back to July 2016.
The four had been preaching in the Bristol City Centre. Whilst preaching, they covered several topics that some in the crowd of listeners found offensive. When the crowd became unruly, police arrested the four street preachers. They were eventually acquitted of all charges but have filed a civil claim. That claim was dismissed by Judge Ralton last December.
The judge is quoted as saying, “There is the tension between freedom of expression on the one hand and harassment, alarm, and distress caused by the expression.” Summarising by saying he had sympathy with both the street preachers and the police but ruled that the officers had not acted unlawfully when they arrested and detained the preachers.
The four appealed the dismissal before the High Court and Mr Justice Henshaw granted permission to appeal. In his ruling, he stated, “Seems to me that the Claimants have a real prospect of success on their contention that the very limited second-hand information which the arresting officers had about the actual contents of the Claimants’ speeches—did not provide grounds for reasonable suspicion that the Claimants were committing or had committed a racially or religiously aggravated public order offence.”
He continued, “rather than this being a case of the Claimants’ speech being so provocative that members of the crowd might ‘without behaving wholly unreasonably’ be moved to violence (Redmond-Bate), the main problem lay with a number of audience members already known to be dangerous who were themselves liable to instigate unlawful violence.”