Originally published in The Independant
A Christian preacher who was held by police for 15 hours without water or food has won R230 000 (£13 000) in compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
John Craven was held by Greater Manchester police after two teenage boys claimed they were offended by his views of homosexuality after the preacher told them: “God hates sin, but he loves the sinner”. The Christian Institute, which funded the legal claim against Manchester police, said Mr Craven was approached by the boys and deliberately asked about his thoughts on same-sex relations.
The boys then kissed in front of him, acted out “obscene” sexual gestures and reported him to a police officer, according to the preacher. He was arrested under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986, for using insulting words with the intention of causing “harassment, alarm or distress”. The 57-year-old was held for 19 hours at a city centre police station and, according to the pastor, denied food, water and his medication for rheumatoid arthritis for 15 hours. The preacher said he was eventually given a bowl of cereal and microwave meal.
Mr Craven brought legal action against the police alleging wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and a breach of his human rights. He said the actions of the police left him feeling “nervous” and “distressed”.
Greater Manchester Police has now agreed to pay a total of R885 000 (£50 000) in costs and compensation in an out-of-court settlement.
In a statement, Craven added: “I never intended to cause anyone harassment, alarm or distress. In fact, quite the opposite. I preach the Gospel which means good news and the love of God for all. It appears that the actions of the police were calculated to give me and other street preachers the impression that we could not preach the Gospel in public without breaking the law and if we did we would be arrested.”
Director Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, 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.”