We are very concerned about the safety of the FSU member and Christian preacher Hatun Tash, who was slashed in the face with a knife at Speakers’ Corner last month. We first wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick about Ms Tash on 2 June, following her arrest for breach of the peace, and we have written to her again, urging the Metropolitan Police to protect Ms Tash’s rights to life, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. Below, you can see our original letter, the replies we received, as well as our most recent letter. [Other letter exchanges prior to the one below, are available at the link.]
THE FREE SPEECH UNION LIMITED
REGISTERED OFFICE: GT. PORTLAND ST., LONDON W1W 7LT
Commissioner Cressida Dick CBE
New Scotland Yard
8 – 10 Broadway
London SW1H 0BG 31st July 2021
Dear Ms Dick,
Attack on Ms Hatun Tash
I am writing to you in my capacity as General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, a non-partisan, mass
membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members and campaigns for free
speech more widely.
This letter concerns the knife attack on Ms Hatun Tash at Speaker’s Corner on 25 July 2021. Ms Tash is a
member of the Free Speech Union. We would like reassurance, in light of what seems to have been an
attempt to inflict serious injury on Ms Tash, that the Metropolitan Police will protect her rights to life,
freedom of religion, and freedom of expression.
On 2 June 2021, we wrote to you about Ms Tash’s arrest by the Met on 23 May 2021. We asked for assurance
that, in the event of Ms Tash being threatened with or suffering violent assault, the Met would take action
against those using violence, and would refrain from arresting Ms Tash for exercising her rights to freedom
of religion and expression.
Inspector Trevor Richards replied to our letter on 25 June with the following:
Ms Tash has received advice about potential threats to her safety at Speakers Corner and elsewhere. She
has had threats made against her, and suffered a minor assault, the suspect of which is known and is
currently under investigation by Royal Parks officers. There has also been a third party allegation made of
Ms Tash being a victim of an offence on the day of her arrest that is currently under investigation by Royal
A number of questions arise from Inspector Richards’ email and subsequent events:
1. Did Royal Parks officers continue its investigations against the persons suspected of offences,
including assault, against Ms Tash? Were arrests made?
2. Did Royal Parks officers update Ms Tash on the progress of investigations, and on any further
threats to her safety?
3. Do officers believe that the knife attack on 25 July was carried out by a person who was already
4. What further steps will officers take to ensure that Ms Tash can exercise her rights to freedom of
religion and expression without risk to her personal safety?
As you will be aware, Ms Tash’s situation engages a range of obligations on the police. Under Article 2 of
the European Convention on Human Rights, the police have a positive obligation to take operational
measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk from the criminal acts of another individual (Osman
v. the United Kingdom, App. No. 87/1997/871/1083 (1998) ).
The Supreme Court has also held, in Metropolitan Police Commissioner v DSD and another  UKSC
11, that police can be liable under Article 3 of the Convention for failure to investigate allegations of serious
We hope that the recent knife attack on Ms Tash, in light of the legal obligations on the Metropolitan Police
and its officers, will effect a sea-change in its approach to her. It is time to accept that Ms Tash is not a threat
or a criminal, but a citizen in danger whose only option is to rely on the police to protect her fundamental
rights. We fear that failure to grasp this reality will result in an avoidable tragedy.
We believe also that Ms Tash’s case engages a question of pressing public interest – to what extent does the
Met accept that it is under a positive obligation to protect Ms Tash’s rights to freedom of religion and
In the case of Fáber v. Hungary, App. No. 40721/08 (2012), the European Court of Human
Rights held that Article 10, interpreted in light of the Article 11 right to protest, imposes on the state a
positive obligation to protect the right to demonstrate, even if this involves operational measures by police
to prevent the outbreak of violence between opposing parties.
We accept that policing the capital with necessarily limited resources is a difficult job. As such, we recognise
that there is a practical limit to the protection the police can offer to Ms Tash. However we believe that the
duty in Fáber v. Hungary is clearly engaged in this case. The Met must therefore make clear to Ms Tash, if it
hasn’t already, the steps it proposes to take in order to facilitate her right to speak in Hyde Park. In addition,
the Met should make clear to the public, in general terms, how it proposes to carry out its positive duty to
protect freedom of speech against intimidatory violence from those seeking to silence others.
The Free Speech Union
cc: Inspector Trevor Richards