Losing faith in our police

Cllr Anthony Stevens(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

When I rang Northamptonshire Police about the allegation that one of their officers had threatened to disrupt a committee meeting of democratically elected local councillors, a recorded message told callers that they may be asked about their "protected characteristics" under the Equality Act.

Christian Concern's legal arm is supporting a complaint by Conservative councillor Anthony Stevens to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) about the alleged behaviour of Northants police officers. 

Christian Concern said on May 20 that the complaint launched by Cllr Stevens, 51, from Wellingborough, called for an investigation into the "methods, motives and conduct" of officers at Northamptonshire police.

"The evidence included a series of incidents where officers openly stated that they wanted to 'remove' Cllr Stevens as an elected councillor because of his free speech beliefs," the organisation said.

"The story involves arrests, interrogations, media censorship, and collusion between police officers and Labour party activists."

The Mail on Sunday had already broken the story of the IOPC complaint a day earlier: "Anthony Stevens, a Conservative councillor in Northamptonshire, was arrested last year after posting an image from a video – first revealed by The Mail on Sunday – of a Christian preacher having his bible wrested off him by police in the street.

"The father of two was held for nine hours, during which he was also quizzed about his online support of another politician (King Lawal, a Conservative member of North Northamptonshire Unitary Council) who criticised gay pride events. Mr Stevens, 51, a member of Wellingborough Town Council, was released and later told that no further action would be taken against him."

The paper went on to report that days before Mr Stevens was arrested, a Northamptonshire Police detective phoned the former local Tory mayor for Wellingborough, Jonathan Ekins, and allegedly told him Mr Stevens should be "removed" as a councillor "because of his views".

In a statement to the IOPC, Mr Ekins claimed that Detective Constable Amelia Thompson had told him Mr Stevens was about to be arrested "for a serious offence".

In a later call, it was alleged that Mr Stevens had breached his bail conditions by attending a council committee meeting at the same time as a Labour councillor who had complained about his tweets. Mr Ekins says he was told that if Mr Stevens were to turn up at another meeting attended by the Labour councillor, he would be arrested "on the spot".

Mr Ekins said: "My response was, rightly, to remind DC Thompson that she would be welcome to try but that, as chair of the committee, I have the right to...instruct security officials to remove the police for public disruption of a democratically constituted meeting."

A Northants police spokeswoman sent me the same statement she gave The MoS: "This investigation is subject to a live complaint and until that matter is concluded, we are unable to comment further."

I asked her whether an officer would be suspended if he or she had been accused of threatening to disrupt a Stonewall meeting. She said quite reasonably that complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But let's imagine for a moment that this had happened and that a complaint against an officer had subsequently come from an LGBT group. Can any objective journalist seriously doubt that this would result in an immediate suspension in any UK police force?

Northants police may be more blatantly politically correct than most forces with its upfront message about "protected characteristics" under the Equality Act, but the recent behaviour of many police officers around the country surely indicates how far forces have departed from Peelite principles, which were ethically Christian in character.

It is well worth reading historian Norman Gash's description of Robert Peel's founding of the Metropolitan Police as Home Secretary in 1829, especially in view of the decision by police forces to allow antisemitic marches around the country since the October 2023 Hamas terror atrocity in Israel. The extract below may also strike a chord with victims of the police pampering of eco-fanatics that has prevented law-abiding members of the public from getting to work and elsewhere:

"On the evening of 29 September 1829 Londoners saw the new Metropolitan Police, in their blue uniforms and iron-framed top hats, on their beats for the first time. They were inevitably objects of interest and, with some sections of the public, of outright hostility...Once the early difficulties and unpopularity were over, the respect and trust which the London police won from the public was proof of the value of the 'preventive' principle just as the nickname of 'Bobby' or 'Peeler' was a tribute to the man who was the founder of the force. From being a hated and 'un-English' importation, the Bobby on the beat by the early Victorian period had been accepted half-humorously, half-affectionately as a British institution, an instantly identifiable figure in the mythology of popular jokes, cartoons, and street ballads" (Peel, Longman, 1976).

Commenting on the complaint against Northamptonshire Police, Christian Concern chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams, summed up why the organisation is supporting Cllr Stevens: "The idea of the police storming and arresting a councillor during a planning committee meeting is farcical, but in this case it was a genuine and real threat and therefore terrifying for those involved. Be assured that if this is happening in Northampton, it will be happening in other parts of the country. The culture being set in the police force needs to change."

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Lancashire.