Artillery Row

Of course there’s a double-standard in policing

Silent prayer is treated more seriously than outright disorder

This Sunday, we cherish peace, as we mark the 105th anniversary of the end of one of the bloodiest eras of modern Western history. 

Unfortunately, London is far from at peace these days.

Socio-political conflict rages — not only in the cabinet rooms of No.10, but on our streets. Pro-Palestinian marches, featuring some violent and disorderly elements, are set to continue as they have done for the past several weekends, parading over 100,000 protestors through the streets of our capital city. Some UK leaders have called for the marches to be suspended in respect for fallen soldiers. Others defend the freedom to protest as critical to the future of a democratic UK. What do we do when liberalism necessitates platforming an affront to liberalism? Confusion abounds. 

But for one army veteran, Blighty’s existential identity crisis hits far closer to home.

The father of two will be in the dock next week for a crime that seems plucked from the pages of dystopian literature

Adam Smith-Connor, who served in the army reserves for twenty years including in Afghanistan, will have to continue to fight for his basic freedoms on home turf. This time, in court. The father of two will be in the dock next week for a crime that seems plucked from the pages of dystopian literature. Adam threw no fireworks. He mobbed no elderly volunteers. He didn’t even utter a word — yet held an allegedly illegal thought. Last winter, Adam stopped to pray outside an abortion facility in Bournemouth. He prayed about the son that he lost through an abortion he paid for twenty years ago, and for the men and women making difficult choices that day. 

No less than ten minutes later, officers approached to inquire as to “the nature of his prayer”. 

Adam has been accused of breaching a “buffer zone” — an ordinance put in place by the local council that prohibits any “expression of approval or disapproval of abortion” within a large area of public space. 

The exercise of mere cognitive function has triggered his prosecution.

How can one man be in the dock for his thoughts, while police seem utterly unable to crack down on real violence perpetrated by many on our streets?

Free expression must be equally available to all. Free speech believers will rightly take issue with Braverman’s calls to use the weight of the state to issue an outright ban against marches this weekend for public sensitivities — even though the cries of some marchers may be grotesque. This government is far too happy to restrict free speech at the best of times, and we must protect it even at its worst. Yet any fool can see the censorious double standard of the establishment is on full display this week. While police stand glibly by when calls for “jihad” ring out, officers do not hesitate to penalise a thoughtful, silent, Christian prayer.

Suella’s apparently “controversial” Times comment merely pointed out this obvious fact. She called on the police to display their supposed even-handedness, and, in doing so, indicated that the emperor had forgotten to put this garment on. Yet these seem to be the words which must never be spoken. 

Suella only voiced what most of the public know. 4 in 10 Brits believe police are more interested in “wokeness: than catching criminals, according to a recent survey. Most of us understand the basic value of keeping things fair for everyone across the ideological spectrum. Calls to oust the home secretary for giving voice to this value undermines the people across the country who believethe same.

While we attempt to remember our fallen soldiers this weekend, it seems we are in danger of forgetting what they fought for. If Britain fails to uphold the most basic values of freedom of thought and belief, we do not remember them — or ourselves.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover