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World News

Street preacher 'delighted' after 'misgendering' conviction overturned

by Donna Birrell

A Christian street preacher who was arrested for 'misgendering' a member of the public has had his conviction overturned.

Dave McConnell, 42, who’s from Wakefield, appealed his conviction at Leeds Crown Court after he was arrested under section 4A Public Order Act 1986 for ‘insulting’ a member of the public in Leeds City Centre in June 2021.

He was arrested after he ‘misgendered’ a transgender person who identified as a woman during a one-on-one conversation with a police officer.

Prior to the arrest, it’s claimed he had been assaulted, abused and had his belongings stolen while he was preaching.

Mr McConnell was subsequently convicted and made to pay costs of £620. He was also forced to do 80 hours of community service despite there being no legal obligation to use a trans person's preferred pronouns in the UK.

Following his conviction, the Probation Service reported Mr McConnell to the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team.

It is believed Mr McConnell is the first street preacher to be convicted for such an offence and reported as a potential 'terrorist.'

Mr McConnell’s lawyer argued that the police response was unlawful, disproportionate and interfered with his Article 9 and 10 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Mr McConnell, who was supported by the Christian Legal Centre was asked in court whether he knew that 'misgendering' a trans person could be insulting, to which he replied: "I wasn't misgendering, I was telling the truth."

He told the court: “I think people could have been offended but that's not the intention. My intention was to simply stay faithful to my beliefs, stay faithful to God and to stay faithful to my conscience.”

He added: “I wasn't being transphobic; I was expressing what I believe.”

Following the ruling, Mr McConnell said: "I am delighted and relieved that the Judge has overturned the conviction and that I can clear my name. I am, however, appalled at how I have been treated by the authorities in this matter. No other street preacher, professional or member of the public must go through what I have.

"'Misgendering' is not a crime and should never be treated as such. I do not believe I was 'misgendering', I believed I was telling the truth.

“How I was treated was totally unreasonable and should concern anyone who cares about Christian freedoms and free speech in this country. 

“Jesus told Christians to expect persecution, however, and I am determined to continue my ministry as while there is always opposition, I also see many people positively impacted. 

“Jesus changed my life as a young man, and I am passionate about engaging people with the hope that made such a difference to me."

A born-again Christian, Mr McConnell has been street preaching across Northern England for 15 years.

Commenting on the case earlier, Elizabeth Wright, from the Crown Prosecution Service (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."  




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