Victory for Free Speech as Christian preacher found not guilty
Street Preacher Mike Overd was today (10 Feb) cleared by Taunton Magistrates' Court of a ‘Hate Crime’ for preaching against homosexual conduct.
Mr Overd was arrested under the Public Order Act 1986 for preaching which stated 'even these dear men caught in homosexuality, if they ask God for forgiveness of sin can be forgiven their sin; God loves them that much.'
Craig Nichol and Craig Manning entered into a civil partnership last June and claimed that Mr Overd had singled them out as ‘sinners’ as they walked down Taunton High Street arm in arm. Mr Overd denied that he insulted the pair and simply acknowledged them and spoke about the hope, restoration and forgiveness that can be found in Christ.
The couple complained to police who arrested and charged the preacher with ‘hate crime’ for stating his traditional Biblical views on the practice of homosexuality.
In court, Mr Overd told Magistrates that it was he who was intimidated. He told the Bench that he was verbally abused and had to seek police protection, only to find later that he was the one who was arrested.
Following the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict by the Magistrates, Mr Overd said:
"This is a case that should never have been brought. Christians like me are being harassed. Thankfully the Magistrates saw the truth of what happened and is happening on a wider scale in our country.
“Something is wrong when Nick Lansley of Tescos can insult Christians by reading out an abusive poem on You Tube about homosexual acts on Christ; Abu Qatada can preach about Jihad and death to the Jews; but the police arrest me, a Christian preacher who cares deeply for Jesus Christ and the people of Taunton.
“Something has to change and I hope my case will encourage others not to be scared to speak up for Christ.”
The case was backed by the Christian Legal Centre who instructed leading religious rights barrister Paul Diamond to defend Mr Overd in court. Michael Philips acted as solicitor.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
“This is an important victory for freedom of speech, which is under attack on all fronts. We are determined to fight for the freedom to speak and preach the gospel.”
Mr Overd was acquitted as the Magistrates found that he did not intend to cause harassment, alarm or distress.