The Government has admitted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should not have branded some verses in the Bible as “no longer appropriate to modern society” in a hate speech lawsuit against a street preacher.
In a written question submitted by Baroness Hoey, the peer asked the government: “What assessment they have made of written statements made in a case by the Crown Prosecution Service that the Bible contains references "which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public".
Baroness Hoey was referring to the case of John Dunn, a street preacher who was charged with a hate crime in 2020 for shouting at two women holding hands: “I hope you are sisters.”
Dunn was acquitted of all charges. However, it was later revealed that, while making the case against the 55-year-old preacher, lawyers for CPS argued that there are some references in the Bible “which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public”.
The remarks sparked controversy among Christians, with some accusing the CPS of overreaching its power.
Now, the government has acknowledged “the statement was inappropriate”.
In response to Baroness Hoey’s question, Lord Stewart, speaking on behalf of the government, said: “The Wessex Area of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has undertaken a post-case review and acknowledges that the statement was inappropriate.
“The statement was not intended to and does not represent a change to published CPS Policy. It is not indicative of a general approach by the CPS to cases involving the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the right to freedom of expression.
“As a result of the post-case review, in future, where skeleton arguments are ordered, in cases where there is scope for argument to arise as to rights such as that of freedom of expression, such arguments will be submitted to the Senior District Crown Prosecutor for signing off, prior to service.”
When the remarks were first made public, the CPS said: “On the day of the trial the complainants could not be located to provide vital evidence for the prosecution, which resulted in us offering no evidence.
“It is not the function of the CPS to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments of the evidence to put our case before the court.”