Crown Prosecution drops lewd Jesus statue case

A Christian woman has accused the Crown Prosecution Service of "pandering to a secularist agenda" and overseeing a "miscarriage of justice" after her private criminal prosecution over a statue of Christ with an erection was administratively transferred to the CPS, only to be dropped six weeks later.

Emily Mapfuwa brought her private prosecution against Gateshead's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art for "outraging public decency" after it exhibited work by controversial artists Terence Koh, including the highly controversial statue of Jesus.

At a hearing on September 2, representatives for the Baltic Flour Mills Visual Arts Trust elected trial by jury and proceedings were adjourned for a committal to Crown Court. But the Crown Prosecution took over the case and decided in a private session that no crime had been committed because there was a sign warning visitors of the nature of the exhibition. The Crown Prosecution also stated that a defence of freedom of speech was likely to succeed and that the statue had not caused public disorder.

In a statement issued by the Crown Prosecution, Nicola Reasbeck, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: "It is necessary to construe the offence of outraging public decency in a way that is compatible with the right of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Having considered the evidence in this case with great care, we are satisfied that there is no case to answer. We have taken into account all the circumstances, including the fact that there was no public disorder relating to the exhibition and that there was a warning at the entrance to the gallery about the nature of the work on display. The case has therefore been discontinued."

But Ms Mapfuwa and the Christian Legal Centre, which has supported her action, say that the statue's offence to Christians should be taken as seriously as the outrage among Muslims caused by the publication of inflammatory cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In the incident earlier this year, a number of media outlets in the UK refused to publish the cartoon because of the offense it might cause to Muslims. Ms Mapfuwa claims the Crown Prosecution has refused to show equal sensitivity towards Christians and the British legal system has caved into a growing secularist agenda.

She called the Crown Prosecution "effectively unaccountable" and said it had "usurped my constitutional rights" to bring a private prosecution to court.

"Whether there was a sign is neither here nor there, the statue was highly offensive and distasteful not only to Christians but also to women and children," she said.

"None of these issues should be decided behind closed doors but in a public court forum. This is state secularist control at its worst and it is not only Christians who need to be concerned about such actions: this is fundamentally about access to justice.

"Access to justice needs to be transparent and justice should be seen to be done. This has not happened here."

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre commented: "It is disturbing that the state can stop a case coming to court. The state can now pre-empt the decision of the court, even when the court has given permission for the case to go forward. How does the Crown Prosecution Service know what the court will decide?

"The right to a private prosecution is fundamental to a free society. This is another example of the biased application of the law. There is no public interest justifying such a course of action."

Ms Mapfuwa is now consulting lawyers of the Christian Legal Centre to consider her legal options regarding the case.