Christian preacher arrested for Islam protest can appeal

Ian Sleeper during his arrest.

A Christian preacher who was arrested for holding up placards protesting Islam after a terrorist attack in London has been given permission to appeal a previous ruling upholding his arrest.

Ian Sleeper, 57, was arrested on 23 June 2017 outside Southwark Cathedral, which is close to the scene of the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack.

The attack on 3 June 2017 left eight people dead and another 48 injured. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility.

Mr Sleeper's placards read, "Love Muslims, Hate Islam, Jesus is love and hope", and "Love Muslims, Ban Islam, the religion of terror".

He was arrested by four police officers under Section 5 of the Public Order Act for causing harassment, alarm and distress, and allegedly causing religious and racial aggravation after a member of the public complained about his protest.

At a court hearing in February, Mr Sleeper's lawyer argued, "The displaying of the placards was not and could never be threatening or abusive, nor was it likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and that it was 'apparent from the text of the placard that the Claimant was not motivated by a hostility to Muslims.'"

The court upheld the arrest but Mr Sleeper has now been given permission to appeal this ruling.

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is supporting Mr Sleeper, said his case raised questions about "whether some religions and philosophical beliefs are more equal than others in the eyes of the Metropolitan police" after the police came in for strong criticism over its handling of pro-Palestine protests in which antisemitic placards were seen.

CLC chief executive Andrea Williams said there was a "clear inconsistency" in regards to how Islam and other beliefs are policed in London and throughout the UK.

"What happened to Mr Sleeper in 2017 has been prophetic for what we now see on London's streets during pro-Hamas protests," she said.

"The police are upholding the right for Islamic protesters to call for genocide without interference, and anyone who counter-protests and disagrees faces the full force of the law."

Mr Sleeper said that recent events showed that his case is "still hugely relevant" and "was a clear indication of what was to come".

"How I was treated was completely wrong. The police have never apologised and continue to believe that what they did was right. Recent events in London following the conflict in the Middle East has exposed that anyone protesting Israel and calling for violence would not be treated as I was by the police," he said.

"There is no consistency in policing over these matters and what has happened to me and on our streets in the past month should be of grave concern to many.

"I will continue to pursue justice on this matter for as long as it takes and am pleased to have the opportunity to appeal the previous ruling."