Giving his reaction to Bideford Town Council losing its High Court ruling regarding prayers as part of its meetings, The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, said he would encourage councils in his area to continue holding prayers before the start of their statutory business.
However, the ruling is unambiguous in its conclusion that;
The saying of prayers as part of the formal meeting of a Council is not lawful under s111 of the Local Government Act 1972, and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue. If it were lawful, the manner in which the practice is carried out in the circumstances of Bideford does not infringe either Mr Bone’s human rights nor does it unlawfully discriminate indirectly against him on the grounds of his lack of religious belief.In calling for other town councils in Devon to continue holding prayers, the bishop is inciting them to commit a criminal offence.
Covered by Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 creates, at sections 44 to 46;
...three new inchoate offences of intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence; encouraging or assisting an offence believing it will be committed; and encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed.The highlighted wording here is key to whether the bishop is guilty of either section 48, or section 49 of the Act, which differentiates between belief that an offence would be committed and intent that the offence be committed.
Regardless of which offence the bishop is guilty of, he has encouraged, if not assisted, in the knowledge that the offence is in contradiction to the law he encourages local councils to break.
The relevant sections are;
44 Intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence(1)A person commits an offence if—(a)he does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence; and(b)he intends to encourage or assist its commission.(2)But he is not to be taken to have intended to encourage or assist the commission of an offence merely because such encouragement or assistance was a foreseeable consequence of his act.45 Encouraging or assisting an offence believing it will be committedA person commits an offence if—(a)he does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence; and(b)he believes—(i)that the offence will be committed; and(ii)that his act will encourage or assist its commission.46 Encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed(1)A person commits an offence if—(a)he does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of one or more of a number of offences; and(b)he believes—(i)that one or more of those offences will be committed (but has no belief as to which); and(ii)that his act will encourage or assist the commission of one or more of them.(2)It is immaterial for the purposes of subsection (1)(b)(ii) whether the person has any belief as to which offence will be encouraged or assisted.(3)If a person is charged with an offence under subsection (1)—(a)the indictment must specify the offences alleged to be the “number of offences” mentioned in paragraph (a) of that subsection; but(b)nothing in paragraph (a) requires all the offences potentially comprised in that number to be specified.(4)In relation to an offence under this section, reference in this Part to the offences specified in the indictment is to the offences specified by virtue of subsection (3)(a).Should I take trip to my local police station when it opens on Monday?
Update: I have had posted a related article here.
Tris Stock is a secular atheist, sceptic, pop-philosopher and writer trying very hard to build up a following with a view to one day make an income from doing what he loves. Please follow him on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.