The chief constable of Norfolk police has refused to condemn an officer who said that offending someone was the equivalent of punching them in the face following an assault on a pro-life campaigner in Norwich city centre.
On 23 July 2021, instead of being supported by police after reporting that a female team member had been assaulted, Dave Brennan of the Centre for Bioethical Reform UK (CBR UK) was instead told that he could be equally guilty of having ‘offended someone’.
For 13 years CBR UK have put on graphic educational displays on the reality of abortion in towns and cities across the country.
The human rights group seek social reform through the power of images and display images of pre and post abortion.
They state that their aim is never to condemn anyone who has had a past abortion but to educate and protect future mothers and their children.
The vast majority of their education events pass without incident and thousands of members of the public leave the displays informed on the reality of abortion each year.
700 abortions take place in the UK every day with 9 million in total since the 1967 Abortion Act, which Mr Brennan describes as ‘the silent holocaust of our time.’
During this educational display in Norwich, a female member of CBR UK was punched in the face by a woman who did not like the poster being peacefully displayed on the reality of post-abortion.
However, after urgently calling the police, in captured video footage, the officer responding to the assault said to Mr Brennan: ‘there’s just as much likelihood that a court will find you guilty of an offence, as say, for example, the person who assaulted your colleague.’
Mr Brennan replies: ‘Really, you’re saying they are equivalent.’
To which the officer replies: “yeah absolutely.”
Mr Brennan continues: “So you’re saying someone’s emotional response to me showing and given that I’m doing it in a peaceful way, I’m not pursuing them, I’m not assaulting them, just by showing my banner it is the equivalent to hitting someone in the face?”
The officer says in response: “I think in the modern world we all know the damage that psychological trauma can cause. Do you not?”
The full exchange with the officer can be viewed here.
The officer’s approach stems from an interpretation of Section 5 of the Public Order Act which states that a member of the public could be guilty of an offence if they cause: ‘harassment, alarm or distress.’
The Act is specifically reserved for incidents of anti-social behaviour but is being frequently misapplied by police to shut down freedom of speech.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, letters of complaint were written to the chief constable of Norfolk police and professional standards.
The letters urged the police to take the matter seriously and stated that this approach to policing leads: ‘to a breach of our client’s rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.’
The chief constable has since failed to acknowledge that his officer had done anything wrong and refused to meet with CBR UK to discuss what happened.
In a statement Norfolk Constabulary have defended their officer saying: “Everyone has the right to free speech and expression, however, officers will take the appropriate action against those select few who deliberately choose to act outside the law.”
‘He suggested educating people on abortion is violent’
Mr Brennan said: “The officer’s response to the assault of one of my team was shocking. Instead of defending unequivocally our freedom to educate peacefully and legally in a public space, he suggested that our doing so was effectively violence and we were as much to blame as our attacker was.
“He either does not know or is flagrantly disregarding the very laws that he is employed to enforce, I am not sure which would be more worrying.
“The real victims here are the babies: poisoned to death and flushed down toilets, dismembered with metal tools and treated as medical waste, in their hundreds every single day in our nation.”
700 aborted each day
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The freedom only to speak inoffensively is no freedom at all.
“If we are not free to educate members of the public on the reality of abortion without fear of being assaulted and then being blamed by the police, we are not free.
“Increasingly, Section 5 of the Public Order Act is being used by the police to silence peaceful and valid views on our streets.
“CBR UK have deep compassion for women who have experienced the tragedy of abortion. Many of their volunteers have experienced abortion themselves and are passionate about reaching and educating members of the public so that they don’t have to go through it.
“This incident provides a key insight into how society and, more worryingly, our police understand freedom of speech. We urge Norfolk police to issue an apology and to train their officers to understand and uphold our fundamental freedoms on the streets of Norwich.”