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Christian street preacher cleared of hate speech conviction

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Daniel Courney had his conviction overturned by the Crown Court

A Christian street preacher has had his conviction for using ‘threatening and discriminatory language’ whilst preaching in Lincoln overturned by the Crown Court.

Daniel Courney, aged 33 (pictured centre), had been convicted by Lincoln Magistrates on 14 September after the Crown Prosecution Service pressed charges over complaints by Muslims in the area. But at the Crown Court on Thursday, his conviction was overturned.

 

A crowd gathered, shouting him down

Daniel, an American missionary who served in the United States military and has been a missionary in Nepal and India for 8 years, was preaching on Lincoln High Street. During his sermon a heckling crowd gathered, shouting him down when he explained that Jesus is the only way to God.

A Muslim woman and her family who were walking by claimed the preacher singled her out and reported to the police that Mr Courney called her “ISIS” and said “go back to your country”. He denied making such a comment and the Crown Court agreed, quashing the sentence imposed by the Magistrates.

 

Freedom to preach the Christian message

Mr Courney had been arrested by police under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and was charged with using threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

In court, Christian Legal Centre's allied solicitor Michael Phillips argued that the law provides the freedom for him to preach the Christian message, a freedom which has been upheld in the courts for many years.

 

"I want to thank the Christian Legal Centre"

Following the case, Daniel said:

"I came to the United Kingdom with its rich Christian history, to bring back the message of Jesus Christ. The message is a simple one: repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and do not follow false religions. Unfortunately I've had to travel to and from the United Kingdom four times in the last three months. I have had other restrictions on my liberty during that time. I have been held in police custody and accused of being a hate preacher. At all times I simply wanted to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to thank the Christian Legal Centre for the help and support and their free legal counsel."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre said:

“We are proud to represent street preachers in our country as they share the love of Jesus Christ with people on the street. This case once again highlights the need for police operating in these situations to understand how the law protects free speech.”

 

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