2010 May

Freedom of speech must be defended, even for homophobes

CPS drop case against street preacher

Charges withdrawn after Tatchell offers to testify for defence

Home Secretary urged to issue new guidelines to police and CPS

Arrest for anti-gay views is unjustified and heavy-handed

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped all charges against homophobic Christian street preacher, Dale McAlpine, shortly after gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell offered to testify in defence of his right to free speech.

Mr McAlpine, 42, was arrested in a street in Workington on 20 April, after condemning homosexuality as a sin. He was charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, contrary to the Public Order Act 1986.

See details of the case here:

“Although I disagree with Dale McAlpine and support protests against his homophobic views, he should not have been arrested and charged. Criminalisation is a step too far.

“Despite my opposition to his opinions, I defend his right to freedom of expression.

“Soon after I offered to appear as a defence witness and to argue in court for Mr McAlpine’s acquittal, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case. The sudden withdrawal of charges may have been mere coincidence but perhaps not.

“Mr McAlpine should have never been prosecuted in the first place. While the arresting officer may have acted with well-meaning intentions, he was over-zealous and interpreted the law in a harsh, authoritarian manner.

“Although clearly homophobic, Mr McAlpine did not express his opinion in a way that was aggressive, threatening or intimidating.

“I am surprised and shocked that the CPS allowed the case to proceed at all. The Public Order Act is meant to protect people from harm. Dale McAlpine’s views are misguided and offensive but I see no evidence that they caused harm to anyone.

“I urge the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to issue new guidelines, making it clear that the police should not arrest people for expressing prejudiced views in a non-threatening and non-aggressive manner. Prosecutions should only proceed in extreme circumstances. The police should concentrate on tackling serious, harmful crimes, such as racist, homophobic and sexist violence.

“Causing offence to others is not a legitimate basis for putting a person on trial.

“Nearly everyone holds opinions that someone else might find offensive. If offending others is accepted as a basis for prosecution, most of the population of the UK would end up in court.

“Freedom of speech means accepting the right of other people to say things that we may find disagreeable and even offensive. Unless people make untrue libellous comments or incite violence, they should not be criminalised for expressing their opinions,” said Mr Tatchell.

Archives – Flyers & Leaflets

Flyers, Leaflets and other material from the OutRage! Archives.

© OutRage! 1990-2010. You are free to use this image to illustrate news stories and articles about OutRage!, the lesbian and gay human rights group, with credit to the group. For all other uses, please inquire.

OutRage! Photo Archive

From our archives: A selection of photos from OutRage! campaigns in the early and mid 1990s

© OutRage! 1990-2010. You are free to use this photo to illustrate news stories and articles about OutRage!, the lesbian and gay human rights group, with credit to the group and photographer. For all other uses, please inquire. Photos: Steve Mayes, OutRage! (unless indicated otherwise)

OutRage! is 20!

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we have relaunched our website. We are in the process of collating, curating and uploading two decade’s worth of material, including old flyers and leaflets, press releases from seminal campaigns and a great deal of visual material from OutRage!’s first decade – from the iconic black-and-white photos of Steve Mayes to the colour images taken by John Hunt on an early digital camera.

Over the course of May, the scope will be extended as we add material from the second decade. We will feature photos, news and other material from the campaign for equality in marriage and partnerships, the Stop Murder Music campaign and other events.

However, OutRage! is still very much active and we hope to have the most up-to-date material on our current campaigns and activities online here very shortly too.