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My Week: I'm guilty, but I won the day

Five Days In The Life Of Peter Tatchell, 46, Of The Queer Rights Campaign Group Outrage! Who Was This Week Found Guilty Of `Indecent Behaviour In A Church'. Last Easter Tatchell Staged A Protest In Canterbury Cathedral During The Archbishop's Sermon

Wake up at 9am, do my daily 45-minute workout of push-ups, squats and body tucks while listening to Classic FM on the radio. After breakfast, I count the number of signatures for the National Secular Society appeal, which calls for the repeal of the 1860 Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act under which I've been charged. The total comes to over 7,000 names, including prominent public figures such as Bishops Richard Holloway and Derek Rawcliffe, Baroness Flather, Viscount Falkland, Sir Ludovic Kennedy, Harold Pinter, AN Wilson, Alan Bennett and Polly Toynbee. I am both impressed and grateful.

Spend the afternoon in phone conference with OutRage! colleagues. We decide to re-focus media attention on the issue that motivated the protest: Dr Carey's support for discrimination against homosexuals.

In the evening, some friends come over to help prepare placards: "Defend the right to protest" and "Carey opposes equal age of consent". Make arrangements for friends to look after my flat and pay my bills if I am jailed. The last time anyone was convicted under the 1860 Act for peaceful protest was 1966. The sentence was two months in jail. I go to bed a worried man.


My friends Sue and Steve arrive at my South London flat at 7am to drive me down to the magistrates' court in Canterbury. Sue gives me a splendid hamper consisting of my favourite sandwiches, peanut butter with walnuts, dried figs and mashed bananas.

The journey takes two hours. On arrival at the courts, I do a pavement press conference to the assembled media. Most journalists seem to agree that the charge of "indecency" under a law that dates back to the 16th century is quite absurd.

The trial opens at 10am, and I get the immediate impression that the magistrate is fairly reasonable, not the "hang `em and flog `em" type that I had feared.

Under cross-examination by my barrister Mark Guthrie, the prosecution witnesses, police and church officials concede that my protest was without violence, threats or abuse. The prospect of imprisonment is receding. A character reference in my defence from the Bishop of Edinburgh is read to the court, and some journalists later spin this as a challenge to the Archbishop's authority.

After lunch I take the stand and, grilled by the prosecution, I defend the OutRage! protest and make the point that the real "indecency" is not my defence of gay human rights but Carey's advocacy of discrimination against homosexuals. This is about as far as I dare go in making an overtly political defence. The magistrate's willingness to give such leeway indicates that I probably won't get a prison sentence. Dread to think what might have happened if I'd had a hard-line member of the bench.

The court adjourns and I am pleased with progress. Now my testimony is over I'm starting to relax. Race back to London, then after another rushed meal I prepare a detailed report of the day's events to put out over the Internet.

Fall into bed (alone) exhausted, at midnight.


Up at 6.15 again - no time to do a workout. Drive down to Canterbury with Sue. Tony Benn appears as a character witness, arguing that, throughout history, oppressive laws like the 1860 Act have had to be broken in order to win social justice. Brilliant! The Liberal Democratic MP Evan Harris also testifies.

At 11am the magistrate adjourns to consider his verdict. During the break, I chat with friends and supporters and get warm with some of Sue's home- made mushroom soup which she has brought down in a Thermos. The court reconvenes at midday and, within the first couple of minutes of the magistrate's judgement, I get the feeling that it will be a guilty verdict, which it is. But when he fines me pounds 18.60 it is immediately apparent that he regards my protest as a trifling offence. He is sending out a witty signal that prosecutions under the 1860 Act will not be taken seriously by the courts.

On hearing the verdict, the prosecutor looks downcast, and my supporters are jubilant. I feel a bit unhappy about losing my conviction-free record, which I had kept intact despite involvement in more than 1,000 direct action protests since 1969. But then all the best human rights campaigners, such as Nelson Mandela, have criminal records. Get home and phone my mother, Mardi, in Australia. She's thrilled that I haven't been jailed.


Interviews continue on and off all day. Letters and phone calls flood in from well-wishers all over the country. At 9.30pm, I get my first break from the relentless pressure and go to a friend's house for my first relaxed meal in three days (pasta with tofu, beans, olives and coriander), drink whisky and smoke a joint listening to Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone.


Do my first workout since . The rush of endorphins feels good. Out of food, so I dash to the shops in between interviews. Haven't done much work in recent weeks and am running out of money (I work full time for OutRage! but it's unpaid).

Phone around newspapers and magazines to propose a travel feature on Australia. 8pm - attend the weekly OutRage! meeting.

We are all delighted that my prosecution has turned out to be a PR disaster for the Church of England and Dr Carey.

Agree to accept Feminists Against Censorship's offer to pay my fine.

Interview by Daisy Price