I was preaching and approached a lady. She said "no I do not want to listen" so, I left her. Then I saw some children. As I went toward the children, the lady started shouting. She stood up and threatened me that she would physically assault me. I went back to rebuke her that making threats is unlawful and it is also unlawful for her to tell me where I can go and who I can talk to, if the person I am speaking to has no problem with it.

Her shouting and screaming resulted in a crowd gathering around and one man decided to assault me. I managed to record this lady threatening me on my phone so I have evidence. I also recorded the man threatening me who was the man that assaulted me.

The police were called. And they said: "Even though there is no law forbidding adults to approach children, it is not good etiquette" therefore they will not let me get justice for the assault.

They reasoned that I should let them get off with it and similarly they too should let me off with it (though I did nothing unlawful).

I reasoned with them that this is not the right course. The right course is to do justice, against oneself, a rich person, poor person, one's relatives and friends, and against a large criminal party. I said "if I have done something wrong, it's only right I should be brought to justice and I would rightfully be a witness against myself. If we do not do justice people will just do the crime again."

"The etiquette they follow, is not law and for a good reason as it causes oppression, and I think it is also against Human Rights."

I was told by the police that they were not going to charge the lady or the man or further investigate it, even though I had the evidence to prove my case, as etiquette is above the law.

My question is:

Is etiquette above the law? Is it possible to answer this question both comprehensively and specifically. I am a self-studying law student and would like to understand these sorts of situations in law.

This is in UK.

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    it highly matters that the person you tried to preach to was underage. Preaching to underage requires the consent of the parents in most jurisdictions in the western hemisphere.
    – Trish
    Apr 25, 2021 at 19:49
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    There's a lot of idealistic rambling and ranting here. Are you interested in legal philosophy or is the real question "can the police choose not to investigate a crime and what are a victim's options in that case?" Apr 26, 2021 at 11:39
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    Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 5: States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention. Apr 26, 2021 at 23:07
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    @Markjohnson Is there a reason you're answering in comments rather than as a answer? Apr 27, 2021 at 10:50
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    @MarkJohnson yours might be better of as an answer.
    – Trish
    May 1, 2021 at 11:47

5 Answers 5


Etiquette is not "above" the law in the sense that an etiquette rule excuses a violation of law. However, at least in the US, the police are not required to investigate every alleged violation of law, nor is a prosecutor required to proceed against every lawbreaker, and the decision to proceed may be influenced by a perceived etiquette violation.

It should also be mentioned that while a third person has no right to prevent you form talking to anyone who is willing to talk to you (unless the 3rd person is the parent of guardian of an underage person you wish to address), it is not in any way illegal to instruct you not to do so, even if the instructions are incorrect as a matter of law. Assaulting you is, of course, a different matter.

  • the third person OP tried to preach to was underage.
    – Trish
    Apr 25, 2021 at 19:33
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    @Trish Noted, but it is not said that the person who wished to intervene was the parent of guardian of said children. I have edited my answer to mention this, however. Apr 25, 2021 at 20:20

Is etiquette above the law?

This isn't how the question would be posed legally in the U.K.

Instead, setting aside issues particular to preaching to children, the issue would be framed as:

"What discretion do law enforcement officers and prosecutors have in deciding when to enforce the law?"

In the U.K., as in the U.S., that discretion is very great, and may be second guessed by the courts or other officials only in extreme circumstances. (The discretion is somewhat more absolute in the U.S. than in the U.K., but is very great in both cases.)

Etiquette is only one of many issues that may come into play regarding how that discretion is enforced. Available police resources, the seriousness of the alleged offense, the clarity of the evidence, justification even if not amounting to full legal justification, the likelihood that an offender will reoffend in a manner harmful to a peaceful social oder, and more can all come into play.

The usual remedy in a common law country for the failure to law enforcement or prosecutors to enforce a criminal law is to bring a private civil lawsuit against the person who committed a crime of which you were the victim.

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    You can also bring a private prosecution. The CPS can block this or take it over but will generally only do so if the case is unfounded or it is against the interests of justice. This happens very rarely due to the cost and the fact that you will not be awarded a financial remedy.
    – JBentley
    Jul 22, 2021 at 9:37

It primarily depends on your jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, police have the authority to enforce social codes. In all jurisdictions, police have discretion as to what actions they will take to enforce law. Taking the US as one example, the First Amendment guarantees you the right to proselytize in public, and a law prohibiting proselytizing children would likely be deemed unconstitutional. Assault is illegal, even when motivated by an emotional reaction against religious proselytizing. Nevertheless, the police have discretion to decide whether to arrest a person suspected of having committed an assault, and frequently do not pursue cases that are simple disruptions of the peace (as opposed to brutal beatings). Police must make numerous judgments as to the severity of the alleged crime and the likelihood that the prosecutor will actually pursue action.

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    The police do not need to investigate or arrest, but if you report a crime they are required to provide; written confirmation of the crime you’ve reported, a crime reference number and contact details for the police officer dealing with your case.
    – Dave
    Apr 26, 2021 at 11:52

No etiquette does not stand above the law, but you have no right to preach to the children:

In the secularized western world (as in Europe & North America) religion is the choice of people. But that right to choose manifests only as people become adults. For children or people lacking the capacity, their guardians may decide what kind of religion they get taught, preached, or indocrinated in and which they follow.

A random person trying to preach to impressionable non-adults is not only violating the rights of the parent, but he might also violate child protection laws!

The freedom of religion, the fact that parents choose what their children believe in till they become adults is a battle since centuries: in 1891, a court held that an unmarried single mother had every right to choose all religious education for her child in Bernardo v. McHugh, [1891] 7 A.C. 388. That precedent still is strong in modern decisions, even more enshrined: in the US, the states may not indoctrinate children in any one religion under the freedom of religion, and the same reasoning from the 1891 case makes it VERY legal for parents to forbid anyone to teach any religion to their children.


What you did is illegal in

Preaching (paid or unpaid) is considered work and to work with children, you must hold a valid Working with Children Check. Do you have one?

I hold one because some of the construction sites I work on are schools and I might have to interact with children. Ministers of religion all hold one, as do teachers, doctors etc.

Of course, this is a case of the law prevailing rather than etiquette.

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