• The case against Mike Overd: Misplaced zeal or a desire to demonstrate even-handedness?

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    Yesterday saw an important victory for Freedom of Expression with the successful appeal by street preacher Mike Overd against his conviction in Match this year for daring to preach the gospel without consulting the authorities about which scripture was to be used beforehand!
    The details of Mr Overd’s appeal can be found here: http://www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/freedom-of-speech/christian-preacher-wins-appeal-against-wrong-bible-verse-conviction
    As readers will know, the British Gazette has reported upon this case and Mr Overd before.
    See: http://www.british-gazette.co.uk/2015/03/24/rip-freedom-of-expression/
    And: http://www.british-gazette.co.uk/2014/02/11/mike-overd-an-important-victory/

    The British Gazette notes the comments made be Lord Evans, former head of MI5, made in July this year when he warned:
    “The forthcoming Counter-Extremism Bill aims to crack down on extremism but definitions will be crucial, and implementation of the new powers will be fraught with risk. One can imagine already the powers being used against harmless evangelical street preachers or the like, out of misplaced zeal and a desire to demonstrate that they are not directed against one religion alone.”
    We agree, but sadly expect the authorities to act in the way Lord Evans fears for in their mind it is a win win situation. By cracking down harshly on such as Mr Overd they gain the initial publicity of the arrest and conviction that satisfies such as Muslims who want to see the law applied “even handedly.” If such a conviction is later overturned on appeal the authorities will not be concerned for the initial impression will still have currency and will still serve to discourage others who would otherwise be minded to emulate such as Mr Overd. Furthermore, such an appeal is far less likely to be reported or I reported with the same degree of prominence as the first case. In addition, the authorities well know that in the minds of many of the general public reports of a person being arrested will for them be the beginning and the end of the matter – they will assume the person will have done whatever the authorities have arrested him for.

    What the future holds them for such as Mr Overd is an increasing likelihood of such situations happening again and again. It all makes work for the police, court staff and lawyers to do!

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