John Kersey writes: We have covered this and other similar matters before but this case is surely one of the most egregious that has yet come to public notice. There must be a clear directive from government that upholds the right to state in public the beliefs of any religion – whether Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any other – in response to a question from a member of the public, without fear of arrest or imprisonment under conditions such as those described below.
This is a clear example of powers under Public Order legislation that are being used far beyond the original intentions of those who passed them into law. The effect of such action is repressive and its targets potentially unlimited.
A story like this gives the lie to any mainstream politician who would maintain that we still live in a free country.
A Christian street preacher who was held by police without food or water for 15 hours after he was arrested over comments he made to two gay teenagers has been given £13,000 in compensation.
John Craven was held in Manchester after two boys claimed they were offended by his views on homosexuality.
The 57-year-old said the experience in September 2011 had been “distressing”.
Greater Manchester Police agreed to compensate Mr Craven after he alleged a breach of his human rights.
Mr Craven, who has regularly preached in Manchester city centre for seven years, was approached by the boys while he was preaching about salvation.
He said the teenagers asked him what he thought of gays, which he had answered by quoting from the Bible’s teachings on the subject, before adding that “whilst God hates sin, He loves the sinner”.
He said the pair then began to kiss in front of him and act out sexual acts.
The boys then reported Mr Craven to a nearby mounted police constable, who placed him under arrest for “public order offences”.
He was taken to a city centre police station and held for 19 hours while an investigation took place.
He said that within this time, he was denied food, water and his medication for rheumatoid arthritis for 15 hours.
He added that he was eventually given a bowl of cereal and a microwave meal after a friend complained about his treatment.
He said he had “never intended to cause anyone harassment, alarm or distress – in fact, quite the opposite”.
“The actions of the police have left me feeling nervous and anxious [and] I found the whole episode extremely distressing,” he said.
Mr Craven brought legal action against the force alleging wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and a breach of his human rights.
His case was supported by The Christian Institute, a charity that promotes the Christian faith.
Director Colin Hart said: “Nobody should face 19 hours in custody for simply answering a question about their beliefs.
“The disgraceful way in which Mr Craven was treated fell well below what the public deserve.
“In terms of the infringement of religious liberty, it was one of the worst cases we have ever dealt with.”
Greater Manchester Police agreed to pay a total of £50,000 in costs and compensation in an out-of-court settlement.
Supt Alan Greene said the force could not “go into detail about the circumstances, [but] we can acknowledge that we did make mistakes and, in particular, kept the claimant in custody for too long”.