Don't charge Pastor Sherwood
On Friday 23rd April, Pastor John Sherwood, a 71-year old father and grandfather was handcuffed, arrested and held in custody overnight because the Metropolitan police disapproved of his preaching which expounded Christian biblical views regarding marriage and biological sex. The clip was uploaded to YouTube where police officers can clearly be seen surrounding the pastor, pulling him off his small platform, rough-housing him, handcuffing him and bundling him into a van where he was detained overnight before being questioned.
Pastor Sherwood was not in breach of any UK laws - his behaviour was neither threatening nor offensive and indeed is legally protected. The Public Order Act explicitly says that discussion of sexual conduct or criticism of the sex of parties to marriage, shall not be taken to be threatening or intending to stir up hatred.
The police arrested Pastor Sherwood because they claimed that his statements about marriage being one man and one woman and that God created two sexes, male and female, were causing ‘alarm and distress. Another officer emphasised the need to avoid ‘homophobic’ statements and incorrectly informed the pastor’s colleague that there was no freedom to make statements that offend others!
After his arrest and detention overnight, Pastor Sherwood was then subjected to an official interview which included intrusive questioning about how he would if a family member identified as LGBT. This goes well beyond the remit of the police whose job it is to identify the circumstances of an alleged crime, not to interrogate a suspect over their views on sexual morality!
There has been a spate of similar incidents of street preachers being arrested in London over the past few years. It is abundantly clear that the Metropolitan police need urgent training in the law. Freedom of speech includes the ability to say things in public that other people may find offensive.