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Christian preacher sentenced for harassing transgender woman amid new rules

by Alex Collett
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A Christian preacher has been served a community order for harassing a transgender woman in Leeds city centre.

David McConnell, 41 years-old from Flockton, Wakefield was preaching, with a microphone in front of a small crowd in Briggate on 8th June 2021 when he made comments about "drunkards, adulterers and homosexuals".

When one transgender woman tried to challenge McConnell, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said McConnell referred to her repeatedly as a "man in woman's clothing".

After McConnell's sentencing on Friday 2nd September 2022, Elizabeth Wright, from the CPS, said: "People have the right to hold opinions and express their views.

"But when words cross the line between a legitimate expression of religious views and become distressing and threatening, the CPS will prosecute offenders if our legal test is met."

Wright also added his comments "crossed the line between a legitimate expression of his religious views, to become a distressing and threatening personal attack".

McConnell was sentenced to 80 hours of unpaid work following his trial at Leeds Magistrates Court.

He was found guilty of intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress and was sentenced to the 12-month community order and ordered to pay fines to the cost of £715.

Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police will now serve religious preachers who try to convert shoppers with a new strict code of conduct, after reports of homophobia increased.

The code, seen by the Yorkshire Post, states preachers in Leeds city centre have become the source of numerous complaints over the past few years after using homophobic language.

West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council have told preachers their right to freedom of expression under the European Convention Human Rights (ECHR) Article 10 is "qualified" when it comes to reducing crime.

The code reads preachers must: "Refrain from using homophobic language or any other hate speech. It is an offence under the Public Order Act 1986 to use threatening, abusive or insulting words with the intention of causing a person to feel harassment, alarm or distress."

It also read: "Do not preach outside the same premises for any longer than 90 minutes, as this can cause significant distress to nearby shopworkers and office staff."

Religious preachers must also keep their volume down and refrain from using language that may be upsetting or alarming to young children.

Contact details, including their church group of preachers also must be handed over to West Yorkshire police or Leeds City Council if requested.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson told Premier "Leeds is a diverse and welcoming city and one where we want everyone to feel safe, Leeds City Council is committed to ensuring that no one should be exposed to hate speech of any form anywhere in Leeds. 

"The code of conduct was introduced following reports of hate speech including homophobic abuse and is a direct response to concerns raised by the public and local business. 

"Leeds City Council will continue to work with the police to ensure that hate speech has no place in the city."

Premier Christian News has contacted McConnell and is awaiting his comments. 

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