Sikh Play Protestor Loses Court Appeal

July 28, 2006

Source: BBC News

On July 28, 2006 BBC News reported, "The use of anti-social behaviour laws to break up a protest by Sikhs against a controversial play worked well, the Court of Appeal has ruled. Pritpal Singh, of Coventry, brought a legal challenge after he was arrested for failing to leave a protest against Behzti at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. His lawyers said a 'lawful protest' should not be restricted by police use of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act. But judges dismissed the appeal, saying police actions were lawful. Lady Justice Hallett, giving the lead ruling on Friday, said Mr Singh's argument paid 'scant regard' to the rights of those who wrote and staged the play and those who wanted to see it. 'They too had the right to freedom of expression, just as the adults and children who were at or near the theatre that day had the right to go about their business without being subjected to scenes which were unnecessarily frightening, intimidating and distressing.' The play depicted acts of rape and violence in a Sikh temple and its author, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, was forced into hiding after receiving death threats. The protesters gradually, if reluctantly, left the scene and more trouble was averted Lady Justice Hallett The theatre - which refused to censor the work - eventually cancelled its run based on health and safety grounds."