On Friday, 12th June, Canterbury Magistrates Court refused to allow gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to witness summons the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey.
Mr. Tatchell condemned the decision as “unjust and unfair”. “I am being denied the right to call a witness who is crucial to my defence”, he said.
“Dr. Carey’s evidence is necessary to establish the facts of the case. He was the only person who witnessed the entire protest from start to finish. The court’s refusal to summon the Archbishop will seriously hamper my defence against the charge of ‘indecency’.”
The court also turned down Mr. Tatchell’s request to secure evidence that is being withheld by the prosecution. His bid to change the venue of his trial was also denied.
Mr. Tatchell’s trial date was today fixed for 25th and 28th September at Canterbury Magistrates Court. He is charged with “indecent behaviour in a church”, contrary to Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act of 1860, (formerly part of the Brawling Act of 1551), following his interruption of Dr. Carey’s Easter Sunday sermon in Canterbury Cathedral.
Mr. Tatchell’s request for the disclosure of unused prosecution evidence was rejected by the court, even though it was conceded that this material may undermine the case against him. “The prosecution admitted the evidence they are withholding could aid my defence”, said Mr. Tatchell. “Being denied these documents will make it harder for me to win this case”.
Mr. Tatchell’s application to move the trial from Canterbury to another town was also refused. He argued the trial should be transferred because one of the key prosecution witnesses is a magistrate at the Canterbury Court.
“It would not be appropriate for the trial to be heard by magistrates who may be friends of a prosecution witness”, said Tatchell. The court ruled that his case be heard by a stipendiary magistrate from outside the Canterbury area.
“Despite these setbacks, I will continue to fight this case on the issues of free speech and the right to peaceful protest. The real crime is Dr. Carey’s support for discrimination against lesbians and gay men, not my demonstration for human rights in the Cathedral.”
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