Christian preacher prosecuted under Covid regulations has fine dropped

Christian preacher prosecuted under Covid regulations has fine dropped

A Christian street preacher who was ordered to pay a fine and removed from the area during Covid has had his case to persue the fine dropped. 

Mike Overd was the first outdoor preacher to fall foul of the lockdown laws when he refused to stop speaking in Taunton in Somerset in April 2020. 

Mr Overd, 56, was preaching and offering prayer and Bibles outside when a complaint from a member of the public was made and officers from Avon and Somerset police came and told him to go home because of the Coronavirus restrictions. 

Mr Overd said he was fulfilling his duties as an evangelist, offering pastoral support to those struggling at a time of national crisis - while adhering to official social distancing rules of keeping two metres apart.
He asked the police officers if the authorities were now "banning Christian workers from coming to help people?"
After refusing to go home, officers packed up Mr Overd's Bibles, and removed him from the area. He was then issued with a fixed penalty notice for £60 which he refused to pay.

Contesting the fine a year and a half later, Mr Overd was set to have his case heard at Weston Super-Mare Magistrates Court on Monday, 6th September 2021.
Mr Overd's lawyers had submitted to the CPS that he had been on the streets for the purposes of "voluntary or charitable services" under coronavirus regulations. They argued that the regulations, as interpreted by the police officers on the day, were disproportionate and an unreasonable interference with Mr Overd's rights under European law and English common law.

Mr Overd's case was also backed by Christian theologian, Dr Martin Parsons, who reported to the CPS that street preaching is an important part of evangelical Christianity, even during pandemics. 
Following the submissions, the CPS decided to drop the persuit of the fine, stating: "the prosecution is no longer proceeding."

Responding to the news, Mr Overd said: "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. If Christians are called to go, then go we must.
"Looking back to the start of the pandemic, I knew that something was not right with the power the police had been given by the Government. It did not sit right with me sitting at home and not going out to preach when people were in need.  

"At the time I was lambasted by many for being out seeking to bring a message of hope to people struggling at the start of this crisis. I lost close friends for the stand I took. 
"The fact that it has been quietly dropped today after dragging on for 18 months, shows that my case, and the laws in general, have been all about control and intimidation. 
"A year and a half on, with draconian measures still in place and more Christian preachers being arrested than ever before, I knew I was right to take a stand and I am glad to have been vindicated."
He continued: "It was always wrong for Christian ministries and churches to be shut down at such a moment of need. Never in our history have so many Christians that sought to support the most vulnerable in our communities been treated so badly by the authorities.

"I said at the time that a truly Christian country would see that the church and church workers are essential at a time great crisis. That has not happened, which is truly tragic.    
"We must realise as Christians how important our freedoms are and that we give them up and capitulate to state intimidation at our peril."