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

Sunday

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.

Monday

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'