Note: The Libertarian Alliance fully supports Dr Clifford in his struggle for freedom of speech. People should be free to say anything that does not breach some private right. I will make a longer statement tomorrow. For the moment, here is his account of what has happened. SIG
POLICE INTERVIEW of
Dr Alan C. Clifford,
Norwich Reformed Church
Interviewing Officer: PC Arnold (PC1396) of Norfolk Constabulary
Location: Dr Clifford’s home address
Date & Time: Saturday 17 August 2013 at 5.45 pm.
I was informed that a complaint had been made to the Police by the ‘chair person’ of Norwich ‘gay pride’ (Norfolk LGBT Project) about an e-mail sent by me on 29 July. This e-mail consisted of a report sent to editors and others of a Christian witness five of us made against the city-centre ‘gay pride’ demo of the previous Saturday, 27 July 2013. (Since their official pamphlet gave a contact e-address, I decided to include them on the larger list of recipients.) The ‘gay pride’ recipient (or another) found the e-mail’s two attached leaflets offensive. These leaflets were ‘Christ Can Cure – Good News for Gays’ and ‘Jesus Christ – the Saviour we all need’.
PC Arnold said that there was reason to believe that I was chargeable with a homophobic incident, having communicated by electronic means something likely to annoy or cause offence. Accordingly, I had two options. I could admit I’d done wrong and pay an ‘on the spot’ fine of £90.00, or produce a signed statement in defence of our actions. I decided on the latter course.
PC Arnold proceeded to ask me a series of questions. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to make a photocopy of the statement I eventually signed (it then would be a document in the criminal investigation), so the following details from memory simply reflect the main points discussed.
Among other things, I was asked why I had sent this e-mail. Was it to annoy or cause offence? I said, “No. I was reporting to the ‘gp’ people our Christian complaint against the public display of their homosexual propaganda, which we find offensive.”
I was asked if I was aware that I’d committed a homophobic offence, as defined by the official police leaflet now presented to me: “Any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person.”
I rejected the accusation, adding that everything depends on the meaning of ‘homophobia’. Since a ‘phobia’ (from Greek) is ‘a fear’, it does not mean ‘hatred’ in the now commonly-understood use of the term. I certainly fear the influence of homosexuality on society, but this should not be regarded as ‘hatred’ unless criticism is taken to mean ‘hatred’. I reminded the officer that my leaflet was subtitled ‘A Compassionate call to Christian Conversion’. Is that hatred? We don’t hate these people. We love them and want to help them. So, even though the ‘gp’ people are upset, we are guilty of no crime.
I asked the officer that since we are offended by their public display of homosexuality, could we not have made a complaint to the police? He answered that we had such a right to complain.
I then explained that we were perfectly within the law regarding our criticism of homosexuality. Yes, the ‘gp’ people are upset by my leaflets but they contain nothing wrong where the law is concerned. I elucidated this point by quoting as follows:
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in Handyside v UK (1976), made it clear that freedom of expression embraces not only information and ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also, ‘… those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society’.
Lord Justice Sedley, in Redmond Bate v DPP (2000), famously said that, ‘Free speech includes not only the inoffensive, but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and provocative provided that it does not tend to violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having’.
Therefore we are persuaded that we are guilty of no crime.
I was asked if I wished to contact a solicitor. I said, “No, not at the moment.”
PC Arnold then informed me that a senior officer would decide whether the complaint is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. A decision on this should be made in about a week’s time.
PC Arnold thanked me for my cooperation, and I thanked him for his courtesy, adding that as Christians we only wish to act with integrity in these matters. With a final ‘thank you’, I said, “God bless you.”
Dr Alan C. Clifford