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Street preacher wins compensation for wrongful arrest

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A street preacher has reportedly been awarded £3,250, plus legal costs, in compensation from the police after being arrested and then released without charge. 

David McConnell was open-air preaching in Huddersfield in 2019 when he was arrested.

According to The Christian Institute (CI), McConnell was held for about six hours until a desk sergeant listened to a recording of his preaching and realised no offence had been committed.

He has now won a claim against West Yorkshire Police for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of human rights.

CI say West Yorkshire Police admitted liability in court papers, and Liverpool County Court issued a judgement in favour of McConnell.

The Police have agreed to pay McConnell damages of £3,250 plus legal costs.

David McConnell said: "I was just preaching the gospel to a crowd of about 50 when some people came up and started asking me all sorts of hostile questions. I tried to give straightforward answers but they just got angrier and angrier.

“They wanted to ask me about sexuality and abortion. I hadn't been preaching about these things. It was them who had brought the questions up. One of them obviously knew what they were doing because they called the police and claimed I'd caused 'harassment, alarm and distress'. 

"I don't blame the police for responding to the call. But they should have asked me for my side of the story instead of just arresting me. They also got it wrong by not telling me what they were arresting me for.

"At the station the desk sergeant was a very reasonable person. I was allowed to keep my bible and a hymn book in my prison cell. Meanwhile he listened to the recording of my preaching and quickly realised there'd been a mistake and that I had not broken any laws.”

West Yorkshire police have been contacted for comment.

McConnell added: “I have to say that, when I am preaching now, the police in Huddersfield are very good with me. I'm glad I'm able to continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ."

Simon Calvert, deputy director for public affairs at The Christian Institute, which supported Mr McConnell's case, said:

"This was a clear breach of Mr McConnell's human rights and a failure to follow the laws governing arrest and detention. West Yorkshire did the right thing by admitting liability and the court has issued judgment in favour of Mr McConnell.

"This case has re-affirmed the value and importance of free speech. Christian street preachers have got as much legal right to speak in public as anyone else.”

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