Bobby Talalay acted for the Metropolitan Police in a damages claim following the arrest of a street preacher

4 April 2023

Bobby Talalay was instructed by the Defendant in Sleeper v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The claim has received national public interest (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/street-preacher-sues-met-for-false-imprisonment-0dfmx7dkh).

Mr Sleeper is Christian evangelist. On 23 June 2007, just 20 days after the London Bridge and Borough terrorist attacks, Mr Sleeper stood outside Southwark Cathedral holding up two signs that said ‘Love Muslims / Ban Islam / The Religion of Terror’ and ‘#Love Muslims / Hate Islam/ Jesus is Love + Peace’. After being told about this by a member of public, who found it distressing, two police officers went to speak with Mr Sleeper to discuss the signs. Following a 45 minute conversation about the law on the right to freedom of expression and the right to protest, as well as criminal offences under the Public Order Act 1986 (POA), Mr Sleeper was arrested under s.5 POA, detained and his signs confiscated.

Mr Sleeper sued the Metropolitan police for damages for false imprisonment and for breaches of his rights under article 9 (freedom of religion) article 10 (freedom of expression) and article 11 (freedom of assembly). Following trial, the claim was dismissed in its entirety by the court.

The case raised the interesting and important point of what a police officer has to do or think when dealing with a suspected offender who is exercising their human rights (in this case, although the Court found article 9 was not engaged, articles 10 and 11 were). The Claimant sought to argue that officers had to undertake a proportionality balancing exercise before arresting a protestor or similar. The Court rejected that and agreed with the Defendant’s approach that the fact that Mr Sleeper was exercising his human rights when arrested only impacted the statutory power of arrest in a limited and narrow way:

I accept Mr Talalay’s submissions that the Claimant’s rights to free speech (Article 10), and to freedom of assembly (Article 11) are relevant in only one respect in this case namely, whether it was reasonable for PC [B] to suspect that the words on the Hate placard being displayed by the Claimant were protected or whether they ‘crossed that line’ so as to engage section 5 POA.

Bobby has extensive experience of acting on behalf of police forces and other organisations in complex human rights matters, false imprisonment claims, civil data protection and privacy litigation, other areas such as claims for assault, stress at work, malicious prosecution, human rights, and other civil actions.

 

 


Authors

Robert Talalay

Call 2010

Related areas

Data Protection
Police Law

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