Judge adjourns decision on LGBT equality teaching row exclusion zone

A High Court judge considering whether to keep a protest exclusion zone around a school at the centre of a row over LGBT equality teaching has reserved his judgment until a later date.

Mr Justice Warby said he would begin considering his ruling next week, after hearing five days of evidence about demonstrations surrounding Birmingham’s Anderton Park Primary School.

An interim High Court injunction was granted in June to protect the area immediately around Anderton Park, after an application by Birmingham City Council following a series of noisy demonstrations near the school gates.

The council, which sought the injunction amid safety fears surrounding weeks of megaphone-led protests involving large numbers of people without children at the school, is now seeking to make the court order permanent.

The judge heard closing arguments in the case on Friday, including a invitation from the council’s barrister, Jonathan Manning QC, to extend the existing ban on protests to two further areas of land near the school.

Mr Manning told Birmingham’s Civil Justice Centre: “It’s clear that the conduct in question is such as to satisfy the definition of anti-social behaviour and public nuisance.

“I am instructed to ask for a modest variation to the (existing) orders. What we have seen by the movement (of protests) from outside the school gates to where it currently takes place is a significantly higher level of disturbance to other members of the community in their residences, due to very loud amplification.”

Lead protester Shakeel Afsar, his sister Rosina, and Amir Ahmed have given evidence at this week’s hearing, and are contesting the need for a legal injunction to curtail protests.

Christian campaigner John Allman from Okehampton, Devon, is also opposing the imposition of what he claims would be a “super-injunction”.

In documents submitted to the court hearing, Mr Allman accused the council of choosing “war war rather then jaw jaw” and said he had decided to became a formal defendant in the court proceedings as a member of the general public.

A witness who gave evidence to the hearing earlier this week, Tom Brown, claimed that Mr Allman subjected him to homophobic verbal abuse after his testimony.

But Mr Allman denied he had made a derogatory remark about local Anderton Park resident Mr Brown, who filmed protesters outside the school and said demonstrators on megaphones made offensive remarks about the LGBT community.

Speaking from the witness box at the High Court hearing, Mr Allman said of Mr Brown: “I believe that he did hear the word ‘fag’ but I did not say that word – it is not a word that I use.

“However without speaking directly with him and making eye contact, I did speak under my breath very quietly, expressing a thought about him.

“If I remember correctly the exact words I used, those words were ‘well done mate’ because I had seen him giving evidence and I could see that he did so in some trepidation and it took courage to do that.”

Barrister Paul Diamond, representing Allman, submitted that the judge hearing the case should treat online discussion of events at Anderton Park as vital in a free democratic society.

The lawyer told the court: “There is a limit to law. It should not be used to silence debate. We say the British population are very concerned about this teaching.”

Asserting that the evidence put before the court was flimsy, Mr Diamond added: “There is no right not to be sworn at, no right not to be abused. There is no offence of tweeting in terms that other people disapprove of.”

Speaking after the case was adjourned, Mr Afsar told a news conference: “We feel that us parents shouldn’t have been here anyway. We feel that the judge will look through the relevant evidence and see that parents were within their rights and were actually forced to protest.

“We would also like to re-iterate to the school that mediation and consultation was never the end of the road. Whatever the outcome of this case, we would urge the school to start a fresh dialogue with parents. We hope and pray that the verdict will be one that will cater for all our communities.”