Court throws out case against pastor fined £16,000 for lockdown church service

Chez Dyer at a 'Church on the Streets' for homeless people.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A pastor has been told she does not need to pay a £16,000 fine issued by the police after she held a church service for the homeless in a car park during lockdown.

The case against Pastor Chez Dyer, 47, was dismissed by Nottingham Magistrates Court on Thursday. The court has also ordered that the government pay her legal fees.

Dyer said she was relieved the case had been thrown out. 

"We stood in the gap for the most vulnerable when others would not or could not. We had people who urgently needed our support and some who said we had prevented them from committing suicide," she said. 

"We were the spiritual doctors who were not on furlough. People were suffering and needed us.

"We reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ during the toughest of times. This is what the church is and what the church should do. For this, however, I was treated like a criminal. We are a church with limited financial resources, so to face fines of this magnitude for helping the homeless was devastating.

"I hope my story can show people the vital role Christian Street ministry plays in our country."

Dyer was handed the fine while running a 'Church on the Streets' service in Nottingham during the lockdown in February. 

The social outreach works with 30 homeless people and meets outside in a car park for worship, a talk and hot food each Sunday.

Dyer and the ministry believed they were following government guidelines as they were engaging in the charitable distribution of food to the homeless and hungry. 

But police officers told Dyer that they were holding an 'illegal gathering' and issued a £10,000 fine. This was subsequently increased to £16,000 by a court. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Dyer in her case, welcomed the court's decision.

"We are delighted that common sense has finally prevailed and that the huge fine will not have to be paid," she said. 

"This Christian ministry was supporting the most vulnerable in their community materially, emotionally and spiritually during lockdown. How was it that they were the ones chased down by police in riot vans?

"It is state overreach to shut down Churches and their ministries, when they are very often the final hope.

"We hope this story sends a clear message to the government and police of the vital role Christian ministry plays in our communities and how it must be protected, supported and encouraged at all times."