Police in Scotland have dropped all charges against two Christian evangelists who were arrested for supposedly using offensive language whilst preaching in Dundee and Perth.
Tony Miano was arrested under hate-crime legislation during a one-week street-preaching mission in January after a member of the public made al complaint.
Miano protested his innocence and said they could see his preaching on video to prove he had done nothing wrong and that his message was one of hope to be found in Jesus Christ. The officers refused to look at the footage and took the evangelist to the
police station where he was detained for 24 hours.
Josh Williamson, an Australian who is a pastor at the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth was arrested twice in three days in the city last September for an alleged breach of the peace .
All charges have now been dropped against both evangelists after months of representation by the Christian Legal Centre.
Responding to the charges being dropped, Miano said:
It took months for the prosecutors to view the footage despite our best endeavours from the very beginning to get them to do so. When the P rosecutors finally managed to get the video footage off my camera they could plainly see that the accuser had made
allegations about my speech that were simply untrue. The Prosecutors found nothing in my preaching that constituted 'hate speech' and came to the conclusion that they had no case against me. Had the officers who arrested me taken a few minutes to review
the video footage, they would have seen what I have maintained all along. This has been a stressful time for my family.
Josh Williamson explains that while he no longer faces trial, the matter is not yet over. He said:
There is still the issue of getting back my equipment, including the footage it contains. I am also seeking legal advice as to redress in Scotland's civil courts against the Scottish Police .
Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre who assisted the preachers said:
This case shows yet again how confused the situation has become. A single passer-by can allege 'hurt' 'offence' and an innocent preacher gets arrested, taken to a cell and held for many hours. This has a deeply chilling impact on all of us; on our
fundamental freedom to speak out about what we believe in for fear of 'causing offence' and being punished by the state for doing so.'
Jake Newsome was jailed last week for posting insulting comments online. His is the latest in a string of cases that have led to prison terms, raising concern that free speech is under threat from over-zealous prosecutors
On 30 April, two days after teacher Ann Maguire was stabbed to death by a pupil in Leeds , Jake Newsome, a 21-year-old man who had himself attended a secondary school on the other side of the city, posted on his Facebook page: Personally im glad that
teacher got stabbed up, feel sorry for the kid@ he shoulda pissed on her too .
Thats not very nice reads the first of 37 comments on his post. Others soon chipped in, addressing him by his nickname: Greeny come on! You're better than that wrote one. Greeny seriously that's harsh wrote another. Greeny, not
sure you should be saying this stuff on facebook man -- people get in trouble for this kind of stuff .
A few days later, after his post had been shared more than 2,000 times, West Yorkshire police arrested and charged Newsome under the 2003 Communications Act with having sent by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other
matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing nature . Last week Newsome was jailed for six weeks, after pleading guilty, with the judge quoting his post back to him and saying: I can think of little that could be more
upsetting or offensive.
Media professor Julian Petley has written a lengthy assessment of the way in which The Guardian's revelations NSA and GCHQ surveillance were negatively covered by the rest of the press. For example he notes about the Daily mail coverage:
The third, and overarching theme in the press campaign against the Guardian and on behalf of the government is national security.
The slant of the article is thus clearly apparent before one even reads it, and the piece itself is dependent entirely upon anonymous 'security officials' and 'Whitehall insiders' who claim variously that 'the publication of the documents stolen by
Edward Snowden is considered to have done more damage to the security services than any other event in history ', that
'there was no public interest in publishing top-secret information which details the precise methods used by agents to track terrorist plots', that 'fanatics were signposted to the places they should avoid when communicating', and that 'the Guardian had
helped to produce a "handbook" for terrorists' .
Every one of these anonymous quotes is highly contentious, yet there is not the slightest attempt to quote opposing or even merely sceptical viewpoints.
Index on Censorship have asked the right questions about reprehensible police political censorship in Cambridge:
Dear Home Secretary,
We are writing to ask that you launch an urgent investigation into why Cambridgeshire Police called on a Twitter user at home and demanded he remove a tweet about a political party-- even though he had committed no crime.
We understand from Michael Abberton that police visited him without warning at home following a complaint from a UKIP councillor over a tweet in which Mr Abberton mocked the party. We believe that the actions of the police are a direct affront to freedom
of speech, and represent a worrying trend in the UK towards freedom of speech on social media in particular.
The case of Mr Abberton is particularly disturbing because of the political involvement in the complaint. Free speech is vital in a functioning democracy and must be protected at all times, but its importance is often felt most keenly at election time.
We believe that the actions of the Cambridgeshire Police set a troubling precedent.
We ask that you investigate this matter immediately and further call on you clarify to police all laws relating to free speech and to elections. That the police saw fit to take this complaint any further than the police station is troubling enough but
two further aspects of this case also require address. The first is that the police visited Mr Abberton -- who it was clear had committed no crime -- at his home, without warning. No one should have to fear a knock on their door by police for simply
exercising their legitimate right to speak freely.
Secondly, we understand that the police who visited Mr Abberton asked him not to tweet about their visit. Such behaviour would not look out of place in a totalitarian regime and is a further affront to free speech and expression in a country that has
often led the way in condemning such behaviour elsewhere.
These questions need answers swiftly. We call for any investigation to include clear recommendations on how such incidents will be prevented in future and look forward to hearing from you on how you plan to deal with this matter.
Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive Index on Censorship
On Tuesday there was contrition from Simon Parr, chief constable of Cambridgeshire, who conceded that his force should not have become involved when a Ukip councillor complained about a blogger who had tweeted a fact check of Ukip policies.
Officers turned up on the doorstep of Green party activist Michael Abberton, who says he was told to delete a series of critical tweets. The force denies that, but accepts that the intervention was unwise, particularly as officers were not able to make a
case that any law had been broken.
Police attendance was not required and should not recur unless there is clear evidence that an offence may have been committed , said an apologetic chief constable .
Self appointed alcoholic drinks censors at the Portman Group have banned BrewDog's Dead Pony Club 3.8% ale. The censor writes:
The packaging of Dead Pony Club, a pale ale produced by BrewDog, has broken alcohol marketing rules for encouraging both anti-social behaviour and rapid drinking.
The Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) considered the product after Dead Pony Club's packaging was identified as being in potential breach of the Code for its association with bravado and immoderate consumption, and for placing undue emphasis on the
strength and intoxicating effect of the alcohol in the product. The producer did not make representations to the Panel.
The Panel considered the overall impression conveyed by the product, the strength of the beer (Alc 3.8% Vol), as well as the text on the back label.
Whilst acknowledging that the beer was of a lower-than-average strength and that one bottle was well within the recommended daily unit guidelines, the ICP concluded the line on the label, rip it up down empty streets , associated the product with
The ICP also concluded that the product did not promote immoderate consumption. However, it did rule that the phrases drink fast, live fast and we believe faster is better could encourage the consumer to drink the product rapidly.
Consequently, the product was found by the Panel to be in breach of Code paragraphs 3.2 (b) and (g).
A Retailer Alert Bulletin has been issued instructing licensees and retailers not to place orders for stocks of Dead Pony Club in its current packaging after 8 July 2014.
BrewDog responded to the 'gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths' of the Portman Group in fine style:
On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today's ruling. Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to
say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.
Unfortunately, the Portman Group is a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants. Their raison d'etre is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands
that pay their wages. Blinkered by this soulless mission, they treat beer drinkers like brain dead zombies and vilify creativity and competition. Therefore, we have never given a second thought to any of the grubby newspeak they disseminate periodically.
While the Portman Group lives out its days deliberating whether a joke on a bottle of beer is responsible or irresponsible use of humour, at BrewDog we will just get on with brewing awesome beer and treating our customers like adults. I'm sure that makes
Henry Ashworth cry a salty tear into his shatterproof tankard of Directors as he tries to enforce his futile and toothless little marketing code, but we couldn't give a shit about that, either.
The Portman Group took objection to the phrase rip it up down empty streets ? Mr Portman, you seem to like taking things literally. Can you please explain how something can be anti-social if the streets are empty? Anti-social is defined as
contrary to the laws and customs of society, in a way that causes annoyance and disapproval in others. If the streets are empty, there are no others to annoy.
As for not agreeing with we believe faster is better , well I think the archaic existence of the Portman Group proves just how bad slow can really be. Maybe they should try and catch up with the rest of the world instead of insulting the
intelligence of consumers with such a thin veneer of impartiality. It is an embarrassing condemnation of the mega brewers who provide their funding, the same mega brewers whose pricing wreaks havoc on society.
Mr Portman, we'd be appreciative if you could now kindly save some trees and stop sending us meaningless letters.
We sincerely hope that the sarcasm of this message fits the Portman Group criteria of responsible use of humour.
An Oxford church has had to cancel its Passion play after a council worker in charge of censorship apparently thought that it was a sex show and could cause grave offence .
The performance, telling the story of the crucifixion of Christ, had been planned for Good Friday by St Stephen's House Theological College and Saints Mary and John Church in Oxford.
The worker in question apparently did not know that a Passion play was a religious affair, and thought it was an obscene production.
The Oxford performance was previously held in 2012, without a licence, when an audience of some 200 watched Jesus, haul a wooden cross from Cowley Road Methodist church to Saints Mary and John. This year, the organisers decided to stage a repeat, but
were told they must apply to the council's censors for a licence, and were astonished when they were turned down.
A church source told MailOnline:
A council official didn't read the paperwork properly and didn't realise it was a religious play, so told us we needed an events licence when we didn't. If they'd told us 24 hours earlier, we would have had time to apply for and get one, but we ran out
of time. It's frustrating because we didn't need one in any case - they just hadn't read what the play was about.
LMPs and religious groups criticised the unbelievable actions of Oxford City Council. Local government minister Brandon Lewis said:
This is typical health and safety bureaucracy that one can sadly expect from a Labour run-council.
Julian Alison, licensing team leader at Oxford City Council, apologised:
I would like to apologise for a wrong decision that I made late on Friday afternoon in relation to the planned Passion play on Cowley Road.
At the time of processing the application, I did not appreciate that this was a religious event. I made a mistake and by the time I realised my mistake, the organisers had cancelled the event. Such a mistake will not happen again.
This statement surely asks a lot of questions about how one person is given the power to censor productions on a personal whim, and without due consideration, just because she thought there was a sexual connection. She should be forced to pay
compensation for her gross negligence to all those participants who have wasted their time and effort.
Smartphones risk turning children into criminals because they provide easy access to online pornography and violent images which desensitise them, the police watchdog has warned. Exposure to violence and sexually explicit material can distort and
confuse their perceptions of normal behaviour , according to Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary.
Winsor issued the warnings in his first annual assessment of British policing, in which he launched a scathing attack on the state of modern policing and warned the service's reputation had been severely shaken by recent scandals.
Winsor said parents had a role to play in crime prevention in general, which was the obligation of every citizen and not just the police:
Parents and families, as well as schools and other educational institutions, must instill in children a strong appreciation of right and wrong, and the reality, instincts and inclinations, motivations and means, to behave as responsible, law-abiding
He said the criminal justice system was concerned with the consequences of a failure to prevent crime before listing an array of causes. They included:
families in crisis,
the failings of parents and communities,
the disintegration of deference and respect for authority,
the corrosive effects of readily-available hard-core pornography
the suppression of instincts of revulsion to violence through the conditioning effect of exposure to distasteful and extreme computer games and films .
But he added: And some people are just selfish, greedy or wicked.