A controversial newspaper advertisement placed by gay police officers which claimed that a huge rise in homophobic incidents was due to religious beliefs will not be the subject of a criminal prosecution.
The Crown Prosecution Service said last night it had decided that there was insufficient evidence to bring a case against the Gay Police Association under hate crimes legislation.
The advertisement, which appeared in a "Diversity" supplement of The Independent in June to coincide with London's Europride event, stated: "In the last 12 months the Gay Police Association has recorded a 74 per cent increase in homophobic incidents, where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator." It depicted the Bible in a pool of blood.
Scotland Yard disputed the figures and, following complaints from Christian groups, launched an inquiry, ironically by the unit set up to investigate hate crimes such as homophobia.
The Gay Police Association has strongly defended the advertisement, which it says was designed to stimulate debate. Bernard McEldowney, the deputy chairman of the association, said last night: "We are very pleased with the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to take any action. No one accepted from the outset that we had done anything to incite hatred. The purpose of the advertisement was to ignite debate and I think we have achieved that objective."
However, a right-wing Christian group, Operation Christian Vote, which has contested elections in the past, has said that it wants to bring a private prosecution over the advertisement. Its founder, the Rev George Hargreaves, who has been linked to Christian Voice, the group which has also campaigned against the GPA, said it was "dismayed" at the decision of the CPS.