Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has condemned his prosecution over OutRage!’s Canterbury Cathedral protest as “a violation of the right to peaceful protest and an extravagant waste of police and court resources, which has already cost Canterbury taxpayers thousands of pounds”.
“This money would be better spent on health and education, or on fighting serious crimes like murders, rapes and muggings”, said Peter Tatchell.
He has criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for “refusing to state the public interest grounds for proceeding with my case, and for going ahead with the prosecution despite the refusal of Cathedral authorities to press charges against me”.
Tatchell is due to appear in Canterbury Magistrates Court this Friday, 5th June, at 10:30 a.m..
“No Cathedral clergy or adminstrators are appearing as prosecution witnesses. All have declined to support the charges against me. Why is the prosecution going ahead if church officials are not backing it?
“Before any court case can prooceed, the Crown Prosecution Service must establish that it is in the public interest. I staged a brief, peaceful protest. There is no evidence that I am a menace or a threat to the public. I have given a solemn undertaking that I will not disrupt any further services in Canterbury Cathedral.
“Despite my repeated requests, the Crown Prosecution Service has refused to state the public interest grounds for proceeding against me.
“This prosecution has already expended a huge amount of public resources that could be spent on fighting serious crimes. If it goes to full trial, my case will be a massive financial burden on the taxpayers of Canterbury. I doubt they want to see their money spent on a frivolous prosecution.”
Mr. Tatchell is charged with “indecent behaviour” in a church, contrary to Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 (formerly part of the Brawling Act 1551). The prosecution claims that any disruptive behaviour in a church is “indecent” under the terms of the Act.
“I will fight the prosecution on the issue of free speech”, said Tatchell. “The right to peaceful protest does not stop at the door of a Cathedral.”
Tatchell plans to witness summons the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral to testify in his defence.
DEFENCE FUND APPEAL
OutRage! is appealing for contributions to the Peter Tatchell Defence Fund.
“We need financial help to fight this prosecution”, said David Allison of OutRage!. “Peter’s case is an important test of civil liberties. We must defend the right to peaceful protest and resist this attempt to stifle freedom of speech”.
Cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!” and sent to:
OutRage!, P.O. Box 17816, London. SW14 8WT