The Metropolitan Police has apologised and admitted it "fell below standards" following two wrongful arrests of a Christian evangelist at Speakers' Corner in London.
Hatun Tash, a Christian evangelist who regularly critiques Islam at Speakers' Corner, has also received £10,000 in compensation and costs after challenging the arrests.
On 23rd May 2021, Tash was assaulted, abused and harassed by a group of Islamic men for wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Muhammad on it while taking part in weekly debates at Speakers' Corner.
In video footage, when police officers ordered the Islamic group to leave Hyde Park, members of the group told police to "go away" and carried on intimidating Tash.
When the same officers told Tash to leave the park, they told her she would be arrested if she argued with them. They ended up arresting her for "breaching the peace" and another public order offense.
She was in custody for 24 hours. Police took no further action after releasing her.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Tash challenged the arrests on the grounds of wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment.
Her lawyers said she should not have been arrested and that: "Just because it was believed that it was operationally necessary to arrest our client that is not what should have happened. The police should have protected her free speech by bringing more officers to Speakers Corner to facilitate her rights. It follows that her safety would have been protected."
The police have also apologised to Tash for wrongfully arresting her on December 2020, again at Speakers' Corner. In this instance, police officers arrested her for breaching coronavirus regulations while preaching.
In a letter to Tash, Insp Andy O'Donnell, Directorate of Professional Standards, Civil Actions Investigation Unit, said: "Whilst the MPS constantly strives to maintain the highest professional standards, incidents occasionally arise when the level of service falls below that standard. I have considered the background to your claim and am satisfied that on these occasions the level of service did fall below the requisite standard.
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to you for the distress that you have suffered as a consequence of these incidents.
"I hope that settlement of this claim and this recognition of the impact of what happened will enable you to put these incidents behind you."
Following the apology, Tash, who has donated the pay-out to the Christian Legal Centre, said that this must be "just the beginning of the police doing more to protect Christian freedoms and free speech at Speakers' Corner".
"l am very concerned by the approach the police has been taking at Speakers' Corner. The police have repeatedly taken away my rights and told me that they cannot protect me because they do not want to offend a certain group of people, which has been very disturbing.
"I believe Jesus Christ is the good news for Muslims, the police and the world. Police need to protect my rights as l tell others this good news. My hope is that many Muslims will come to faith in Jesus.
"More must be done to properly deal with Islamic violence and intimidation at Speakers' Corner. We don't live in Pakistan; we don't live in Saudi Arabia. I am Christian and by default I believe that Muhammad is a false prophet. I should be allowed to say that in the UK without being stabbed or repeatedly arrested.
"Police inaction and fear has led to mobs being encouraged to silence, threaten and to even try to kill me. It is heart-breaking that we live in a society where police do not want to arrest a Muslim for fear of being called Islamophobic.
"The police have seen it as easier to remove me deal than with people intimidating and threatening me. By doing this, Sharia Law is ruling Speakers' Corner rather than the law of the UK," she continued.
In July 2021, Tash was stabbed in front of police at Speakers' Corner by a man in a black Islamic robe in broad day light. No arrest has ever been made.
Listen to Premier's interview with Tim Dieppe, head of public policy at Christian Concern: