The Metropolitan Police has apologised and admitted it ‘fell below standards’ following two wrongful arrests of a female Christian evangelist at Speakers’ Corner, London.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Hatun Tash, a well-known Christian evangelist who regularly critiques and debates the Qur’an and Islam at Speakers’ Corner, has also received £10,000 in compensation and costs after challenging the arrests.
On 23 May 2021, Miss Tash, who is the director of the ministry Defend Christ Critique Islam (DCCI) and has 700,000 YouTube followers, 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, known as the home of free speech.
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 Miss Tash.
When the same officers told Miss Tash to leave the park, they told her she would be arrested if she argued with them.
Instead of dealing with the threats and intimidation, the police chose to arrest Miss Tash for ‘breaching the peace’ and then she was further arrested under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986.
She was then taken into police custody and later interviewed under caution and held in custody. For 24 hours she was held before being released with the police taking no further action.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Miss Tash challenged the arrests on the grounds of wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment. Her lawyers said that it was ‘abundantly clear’ that 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.”
Following news of the arrest, the Free Speech Union wrote to Cressida Dick, then commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, calling on her: “To train your officers to avoid acting in a way that is incompatible with free speech rights.”
In the lead up to the incident, the same Islamic group had been on Oxford Street taking part in a pro-Palestinian counter-demonstration against a rally for Israel and peace.
The group can be seen threatening Jews and calling for ‘Jewish blood’, which was reported in The Sunday Times. From this demonstration, the group moved to Speakers’ Corner where they were allowed to intimidate the police into arresting Miss Tash.
Two months later in July 2021, Miss Tash was stabbed in front of police at the same location by a man in a black Islamic robe in broad daylight. No arrest has ever been made.
The police have now also apologised to Miss Tash for wrongfully arresting her on December 2020, again at Speakers’ Corner. In this instance, police officers used the excuse of coronavirus regulations to detain her after she encouraged officers not to hinder another preacher’s right to free speech.
In a letter to Miss 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, Miss Tash, who has donated the payout to the Christian Legal Centre, has 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 than deal with people intimidating and threatening me. By doing this, Sharia Law is ruling Speakers’ Corner rather than the law of the UK.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This payout to Hatun is a rare admission by the police that they got it wrong.
“Hatun is well known at Speakers’ Corner’ yet it is she that has been repeatedly silenced or removed by the police because she challenges the religious ideology of Islam.
“Not satisfied with hounding her out of Speakers’ Corner an attempt has been made on her life for which there has still been no arrest.
“Hatun is a fearless and passionate woman who loves Jesus and who has love and compassion for people from all backgrounds who she debates with and wants to reach with the gospel, which has transformed her life.
“If Hatun is silenced by violence at Speakers’ Corner, we are all silenced.”
Find out more about Hatun Tash