A London court sided with a street preacher who was prosecuted and fined for evangelizing in Camden on April 2020, which was Good Friday.
The Christian Post reported that justice was achieved for 31-year-old street preacher Joshua Sutcliffe when the London Magistrates Court rendered him "not guilty" for charges filed against him by the local police in violation of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
Sutcliffe was said to be handing out leaflets while preaching when four policemen saw him and detained him since he was "outdoors without reasonable excuse" during the lockdown.
As per the Christian Concern whose legal arm handles Sutcliffe's case, the preacher informed the policemen when they stopped him with what he was doing that "he was a pastor and worship leader," giving him the exemption to be "outdoors" for he was "providing charitable services."
But the police nonetheless "cautioned" him and imposed a "fixed penalty notice" on him. Sutcliffe then "contested" the fine last July 6 in court through the help of Christian Legal Centre. Sutcliffe pointed out that he handed "his shoes to a homeless man" on the way home that day--something he "could have not done" had he done the preaching online--after he was warned by the policemen.
In addition, Sutcliffe disclosed that he was intimated by the police who surrounded him and felt discriminated against. He pointed out that he was actually doing something good by preaching in the streets as he has been doing in the past.
"At one point during the incident I was surrounded by four police officers, which was very intimidating. They treated me like a second-class citizen," Sutcliffe said.
"I am a Christian minister of the gospel, which not so long ago was a treasured and respected vocation in the U.K. During times of need, people need the hope of the gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ," he added. "That is what I do on a regular basis, I go to the streets and proclaim the hope and truth of the resurrection of Christ. I was doing this on Good Friday, one of the most important days in the Christian calendar to do this."
Christian Concern said the Court didn't find him guilty of the charges against him because he had a reasonable reason for doing so. It pointed out that the Court's decision on Sutcliffe case was unique in that a prior case having the same circumstances as his was judged differently the previous month.
"We find the defendant not guilty on all charges. We find that the defendant was outside and that he had a reasonable excuse as he was travelling to his place of work, as a worship leader. Whilst he was in a gathering and therefore in breach of regulation 7, however, the parties were together and were allowed to rely on articles 9, 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Their gathering was limited in duration, and they were entitled to gather for street evangelising," Christian Concern quoted the court's decision.
Christian Legal Centre Chief Executive Andrea Williams revealed that their organization has been observing "a lot of inconsistencies from police and the judiciary in these cases." She said that Christians have become "easy targets" for local law enforcers during the pandemic while other groups were easily able to gather freely.
Williams said Sutcliffe's act of charity on Good Friday is how "Christian witness" should be like "during this time of crisis," which is "ministering to people's physical and spiritual needs." However, what happens is that pastors like Sutcliffe have been "fined, arrested and prosecuted for doing so."
Nonetheless, Williams revealed that they are "pleased that the court has acquitted" Sutcliffe on the case. In line with his acquittal, Sutcliffe likewise expressed his appreciation because "justice prevailed."
"I am very glad the magistrates threw the case out and that reason and justice prevailed," Sutcliffe stressed.