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‘She was doing her best’: Met chief defends volunteer officer who told Christian busker ‘you can’t sing outside church’
2 February 2024, 00:34 | Updated: 2 February 2024, 00:39
An officer who told off a Christian busker for singing ‘church songs’ was ‘just doing her best’, the Metropolitan Police chief has said.
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Harmonie London, a 20-year-old gospel singer who regularly performs in central London, was told by special constable Maya Hadzhipetkova over the weekend that she’s “not allowed to sing church songs outside of church grounds”.
Ms Hadzhipetkova intervened despite there being no laws against religious singing on the pavement - just local bylaws over busking licences and obstructing roads.
The confrontation took place outside John Lewis on Oxford Street, where Ms London defended her right to sing the songs.
The officer told the gospel singer she could not sing "outside of church grounds unless you have been authorised by the church to do these kind of songs".
But Ms London went on: "That's a load of rubbish, you're allowed”.
Addressing the incident, Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley defended the volunteer as he said she was “doing her best”.
He said she had been on patrol and decided to speak to the busker following complaints.
Sir Mark acknowledged that perhaps the special constable did not handle the situation perfectly but said “she’s a volunteer doing her best who made a mistake”. He said the force is now dealing with the matter as a management issue.
But Sir Mark also condemned the abuse being hurled towards the volunteer online, as he said has suffered racist abuse and vitriol despite volunteering in the role to help out her community.
At the time, Ms London said the incident breached Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, which protects freedom of religion.
The singer continued: "Are you saying that you don't care about the Human Rights Act?" - before accusing her of 'laughing'.
This prompted the volunteer officer to stick her tongue out at the singer.
The Met apologised after it reviewed body-worn footage of the incident.
A statement from the force said: "We're reviewing body worn video of this interaction - it's more than 40 minutes long. At the heart of this is a specific by-law related to busking.
"The officer knows she could have handled this differently and is speaking to her manager."
It added, however, that the footage shared online only showed a snippet of the full 43-minute conversation between the special constable and busker.