Street preacher to receive £3,250 payout from police over wrongful arrest

(Photo: Unsplash/Aaron Burden)

A Christian street preacher arrested "for preaching on gay rights and abortion" has won his legal challenge against West Yorkshire Police.

David McConnell was arrest in December 2019 and held for around six hours, according to The Christian Institute, which supported his case. 

He took West Yorkshire Police to court for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of human rights, and has now won his case at Liverpool County Court. 

West Yorkshire Police, which admitted liability in court papers, has agreed to pay Mr McConnell £3,250 plus legal costs.

Commenting on his case, McConnell said he was not given a reason for his arrest or asked for his side of the story by officers attending the scene.

"I was just preaching the gospel to a crowd of about 50 when some people came up and started asking me all sorts of hostile questions," he said. 

"I tried to give straightforward answers but they just got angrier and angrier. They wanted to ask me about sexuality and abortion. I hadn't been preaching about these things.

"It was them who had brought the questions up. One of them obviously knew what they were doing because they called the police and claimed I'd caused 'harassment, alarm and distress'.

"I don't blame the police for responding to the call. But they should have asked me for my side of the story instead of just arresting me." 

He added, "I'm thankful that the police have admitted what they did was unlawful. It was a very distressing experience for me.

"But I'm glad I can put it behind me. I have to say that, when I am preaching now, the police in Huddersfield are very good with me. I'm glad I'm able to continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ."

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, said the incident "was a clear breach of Mr McConnell's human rights and a failure to follow the laws governing arrest and detention".

"West Yorkshire did the right thing by admitting liability and the court has issued judgment in favour of Mr McConnell," he said. 

He continued, "This case has re-affirmed the value and importance of free speech. Christian street preachers have got as much legal right to speak in public as anyone else.

"We are glad the police have admitted they broke the law but more needs to be done to prevent these kinds of cases.

"The public is very concerned about the chilling of free speech. Instead of taking their cue on LGBT issues solely from LGBT groups, the police should be getting diversity training from a range of providers. This would remind them that, in a pluralistic and tolerant society, there is room for more than one opinion." 

He added, "Dissent from the orthodoxies of LGBT groups is not criminal. You can't have the police acting as enforcers for cancel culture, using the power of the state to silence unfashionable voices. That is not their job. Their job is to uphold the law for everyone, including Christians, without fear or favour."