UK prosecution service drops charges against street preacher

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) - The UK’s prosecution service has dropped charges brought against a street preacher who refused to stop his outdoor ministry during England’s first COVID-19 lockdown last year, Christian Concern (CC) reports. Christian street lay minister Mike Overd was due to appear in court this month after police issued him with a fine for preaching and offering prayer and Bibles in Somerset, southern England on April 2, 2020.

Churches in England were closed in a nationwide lockdown, but Overd was ministering outdoors and practicing the two-meter social distancing protocol while carrying out his work, CC said.

Nevertheless, police received a complaint from a member of the public and officers from the Avon and Somerset branch approached Overd, telling him to stop what he was doing and to go home in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions.

Overd refused to go home, attesting that he was offering pastoral support to the public during a national crisis, and was abiding by social distancing protocols; he has been ministering at this Somerset location for 10 years, CC said. In response, the police gathered up Overd’s Bibles, removed him from the area, and issued him with a fixed penalty notice for £60. The preacher contested the fine and his case was due to be heard at Weston Super-Mere Magistrates Court on September 6, 2021.

Prior to the hearing date, however, Overd’s lawyers contacted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and argued that the minister had been carrying out ‘voluntary or charitable services’ under coronavirus regulations and that the police had acted unreasonably, CC said. The CPS agreed, and dropped the charges: “‘the prosecution is no longer proceeding,” the prosecution service said in a statement.

“This is a great victory for Jesus and for freedom of speech. It is a victory that you must be able to go out and preach the gospel, whether there is a terrible virus out there or not,” Overd said in a separate statement. “If Christians are called to go, then go we must.”