The Gay Lesbian Humanist Association has learned that an evangelical Christian politician will be seeking a private prosecution of members of the Gay Police Association following the Crown Prosecution Service’s determination this week that the group would not be prosecuted.
Rev George Hargreaves, the leader of Operation Christian Vote, a fundamentalist Christian political party that unsuccessfully contested seats in the 2004 election, informed Ken Macdonald QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, that he was seeking “request for leave to enter into a private prosecution in the matter of the GPA’s advertisement.”
Hargreaves is known to have links with the religious right in the US. Ahead of his 2004 election bid, he flew to the Unites States to consult with Christian political strategists. He has also worked with Stephen Green of Christian Voice in an effort to censor “blasphemy” in the media .
Despite the GPA maintaining in a statement that the advert was never an attack on all faith groups, noting that “The intention of the advertisement was to cause public debate about an issue that has remained taboo for centuries. An issue that is now having a serious and detrimental effect on the lives of hundreds of law-abiding gay men and women each year and which, on the basis of our records, is growing at such an alarming rate that it could soon become a serious social problem,” Hargreaves is adamant that he will pursue a private prosecution:
“I was therefore dismayed to learn that the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution against the officer(s) who facilitated the publication of the advertisement,” he wrote to Ken McDonald QC.
“I believe there is a case to answer in this matter, and that there is sufficient evidence to prove the necessary legal test set out in the Public Order Act (not least the evidence of the 40,000 people who lodged official complaints with the police). I also believe that it is not in the public interest for this case to be dropped – to do so would give the impression that Police officers are above the law,” he continued.
Hargreaves will be seeking to prosecute several officers in the GPA in their personal capacities.
George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association said: “Some evangelical religious groups have realised that there may still be mileage in this issue and are seeking to spin it out further..
“It no longer has anything to do with spontaneous outrage or offence, this is now a carefully organised campaign aimed at silencing critics. I hope that it will be recognised as such and that the CPS will not be drawn into the manipulative politics of right-wing religion.
“This kind of campaign is a danger to free expression and I hope the authorities will not collude in it. The CPS should send Hargreaves away with a flea in his ear, and tell him to stop wasting the valuable time and resources of public officials with his senseless rabble-rousing.”
It is expected that the Christian Lawyers Association – which also condemned the GPA advert – will be supporting Hargreaves in his effort to pursue a private prosecution.
The conviction of Gay News editor Denis Lemonfor for “blasphemous libel” in 1977 was the result of a private prosecution brought by the secretary of the National Viewers and
Listeners Association, Mary Whitehouse.