Christian street preacher to receive £2,500 payout from Met Police after wrongful arrest

Pastor Oluwole Ilesanmi(Photo: Christian Concern)

A pastor who had his Bible confiscated as he was handcuffed and taken away in a police car after preaching on the street in London has been awarded £2,500 for wrongful arrest.

Footage of Pastor Oluwole Ilesanmi, 64, being arrested in February outside Southgate tube station in Enfield went viral and has since been viewed over three million times. 

He was arrested for 'breach of the peace' after a member of the public complained that he was making 'Islamophobic' comments.  While Mr Isesanmi admitted calling Islam an "abberation", he said the comment was made as an expression of his religious viewpoint and not because of hatred against Muslims. 

In the disturbing footage, one officer tells Mr Ilesanmi, "No one wants to hear that. They want you to go away."

When the officers confiscated his Bible, Mr Ilesanmi could be heard pleading, "No, no, no, no, no, don't take my Bible away." 

One officer then replied: "You should've thought about that before being racist."

Mr Ilesanmi was de-arrested but only after being driven miles away from Southgate and left without any money to pay for public transpart to get home, forcing him to ask a passerby for help with the cost of a bus ticket. 

Pastor Oluwole said: "I am glad that the police have recognised that it was not right to arrest me for preaching from the Bible. It was traumatic being arrested and left many miles from my home. But God was always with me and even though I was left in a place I did not know, I was determined to get back to Southgate and start preaching the gospel again.

"When I came to the UK it was a free Christian country, but now preachers like me are being arrested for speaking the truth. Christians and freedom of speech must be protected, especially by the government and police.

"I hope this recognition of fault can lead to more Christians being protected and the police gaining greater insight into what it means to lawfully proclaim the Word of God on our streets." 

Following the arrest, a petition was launched by Christian Concern, which has been supporting Mr Ilesanmi, calling for an investigation by the Home Office into police guidance and training for all police officers nationwide on the right to preach in public. 

It has been signed over 40,000 times and will be delivered to the Home Office on Tuesday. 

The Christian Legal Centre will also deliver a letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner calling for misconceptions about street preaching freedoms to be addressed through specialist training.

"Many street preachers have found themselves in trouble. This has included being arrested, and prosecuted, despite the law recognising their rights to both manifest and express their religious beliefs," the letter reads.

"None of the clients we have assisted has been convicted; accordingly, that might suggest the criminal justice system is working appropriately; however, the problem is that many officers simply do not understand the interplay between the public order legislation and the right to freedom of speech."

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said "tangible action" was needed from those in power to stop the arrest of more street preachers.

"Street preaching has a long and honoured history in the UK. In many ways it is symbolic of the kind of freedoms we have treasured in this nation," she said. 

"However despite laws that theoretically support the freedom to preach in public, in practice, police officers are quick to silence preachers at the first suggestion that a member of the public is offended.

"Freedom of speech means that each one of us needs to be able to critique all religions and ideas without immediately being labelled and silenced as offensive. Critiquing ideas is often motivated by love for others and not hate. The result of this also chills free speech through self-censorship.

"While the extent of the public outrage at Pastor Oluwole's arrest was unique, what he faced from the police and members of the public was not. We are constantly supporting street preachers who are being silenced and penalised on our streets by the police, and their poor treatment and the injustice they face is too quickly forgotten.

"So whilst we are pleased that the police have agreed to pay compensation for what has happened to Pastor Oluwole, we now need to see tangible action from the government, the police and the Mayor of London, offering assurances that Christian street preachers are free to preach the gospel within the law without fear of prosecution."