Last time I told the story of how the governors of the once-Christian Trent College, a boys’ school in Nottinghamshire, had sacked their chaplain for having preached a sermon saying that pupils should feel free to adhere to the Church’s teaching that homosexuality was wrong.
This issue, an even more shocking story. Some weeks ago a Methodist preacher, Pastor Sherwood, and his colleague Pastor Simpson were preaching in the street outside a London Underground station in the Prime Minister’s constituency, when three police told Pastor Sherwood to stop and come down off his soap-box.
His crime? He was preaching on a passage from Genesis Chapter 1:26-28
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Pastor Simpson says that Pastor Sherwood’s interpretation of this passage was as follows:
“God’s design in creating mankind was to set human beings in families, headed by a father and a mother, not by two fathers or by two mothers. The distinction within mankind of just two genders, male and female, made in the image of God, constitutes the essence of God’s created order.”
Police approached the two preachers and told them three complaints had been made about their street sermon. A police officer warned them that they should avoid making any “homophobic statements” and that there was “no freedom to make statements which offend people”. Eventually he told Pastor Sherwood, 71, that he was under arrest. The arresting officer then committed the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, in that Pastor Sherwood later reported damage to his wrist and elbow.
The offence was filmed by an audibly shocked passer-by. One had hoped that the George Floyd case would have alerted police worldwide to the likelihood that brutality on the street would be recorded and made public, so that they might conduct themselves more lawfully.
I have watched the video footage several times with some care. The following facts emerge:
- The arresting officer made not the slightest attempt to keep his temper.
- The arresting officer peremptorily and angrily – nay, hysterically – shouted at Pastor Sherwood four or five times within only 16 seconds that he must come down from his preaching stool, visibly astonishing and terrifying that elderly gentleman and giving him no time to collect his thoughts or to finish his attempted response to the demand that he must come down.
- The arresting officer then grabbed Pastor Sherwood by his left wrist, jerked his arm sharply and pulled him violently and suddenly down from his stool.
- Had another police officer not succeeded in catching Pastor Sherwood as he was dragged off the stool, he might well have been flung to the ground.
- Pastor Sherwood was plainly baffled and terrified. He offered no resistance of any kind. I watched with particular care to see whether Pastor Sherwood raised either of his arms, but he kept them hanging straight down. When I was trained in riot control, I was taught that those who kept their hands below their waists were far less likely to be a threat than those who raised them.
- However, the arresting officer, by this time facing Pastor Sherwood, took the Pastor’s left hand with his own left hand and swept it violently outward and upward to his own right and to Pastor Sherwood’s left, wrenching the Pastor’s elbow. In my first aid training, I was taught that elderly people (the Pastor is 71) should be treated with great gentleness and care.
- The arresting officer, holding Pastor Sherwood’s left arm up with his own left hand, suddenly, deliberately and viciously swept up his own right hand, which he had previously drawn back as far as his waist, and struck Pastor Sherwood’s left arm just by the wrist, following through the stroke and forcing Pastor Sherwood’s left hand precipitately downward.
- The arresting officer then kicked Pastor Sherwood’s left leg with his right leg. This kick may have been inadvertent, but, if it was, it merely serves to illustrate both the violence of the arresting officer’s cruel manipulation of the Pastor’s left arm and the arresting officer’s failure to exercise normal caution and respect, particularly when dealing with a senior citizen.
- The combination of the blow and the kick were so violent that they caused Pastor Sherwood to collapse into the arresting officer’s arms.
- The bystander filming the event gasped with audible horror the moment the blow and the kick were delivered. Then, in an attempt to save Pastor Sherwood, she cried out several times to the police, “You’re on camera! You’re on camera!”
- An elderly lady standing close to the police thereupon reached out courageously to try to restrain their violent behaviour.
- Both officers then wrenched Pastor Sherwood around, again with what appeared to be altogether unnecessary violence, and, with a third officer, surrounded him so that he could not be seen, manhandled him and hustled him away.
Pastor Simpson said:
“This dignified man of God, who is in his early 70s, was marched off to a nearby police car, as one of the helpers from my church cried out, ‘What has happened to us as a nation that a man can no longer preach from the Bible?”
Pastor Simpson later said the police had imprisoned Pastor Sherwood for 21 hours, and had subjected him to hostile interrogation. At one point an officer asked him what he would say if his son were homosexual. He was eventually released, but may yet face charges.
Now for the other side of the story, such as it is. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said:
“At 13:35hrs on Friday, 23 April, officers on patrol were flagged down by a member of the public who made them aware of a man allegedly making homophobic comments close to Uxbridge Underground Station.
“A number of other people also approached the officers with concerns about the man’s language. [From the above evidence, your force’s public-relations spin-doctors have used “a number of” to imply a substantial number when in fact only two or three other people had approached the police.]
“Officers spoke with the 71-year-old man and he was subsequently arrested on suspicion of an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.”
From another source:
“A Metropolitan Police spokesman said, ‘The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards have since assessed the footage and found no indication of misconduct. The arrest will not be subject to a full review.’”
I wrote to the Metropolitan Police Kommissar to draw her attention to the following –
- That the arresting officer had committed assault occasioning actual bodily harm;
- That the other officers present were guilty of aiding and abetting the assault;
- That the arresting officer was guilty of threatening and abusive language;
- That the Metropolitan Police had falsely arrested Pastor Sherwood;
- That the Metropolitan Police had falsely imprisoned Pastor Sherwood.
I recommended that another force should be called in to investigate.
Eventually a chief superintendent replied that the police would do no such thing. Another policeman then replied refusing my freedom-of-information request about relevant police policies. Meanwhile, police in uniform take part in “Gay” “Pride” demonstrations, and chant “Free Palestine!” at anti-Semitic protest. No one arrests or interrogates them, of course.
Britain was once a free country. Take care that Ireland does not follow us into the murderous totalitarianism against which my late beloved father so gallantly fought.