Street preacher challenges police injunction in court

Street preacher Mike Overd(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A Taunton street preacher is challenging police attempts to curtail his ministry under anti-social behaviour regulations. 

Avon and Somerset Police are seeking an injunction that could see Mike Overd arrested, imprisoned or found in comtempt of court if he preaches in a single town or parish for more than 20 minutes a day.

The injunction would also prevent him from using a loud speaker, standing on a soap box, using visual aids, placards and signs showing the reality of abortion, and going withing 80 yards of an abortion clinic in Taunton.  

In addition, the junction would prohibit him from "breaching the peace" through any words or actions in a public space.

The application claims that Mr Overd "engages or threatens to engage" in anti-social behaviour, and that his preaching "threatens violence" and could cause "significant risk or harm" to others.

Mr Overd has previously preached on topics like homosexuality, religion and abortion.  On one occasion, a complaint was lodged against him by an employee of a Taunton abortion clinic when he stood outside with a sign that said "abortion is murder".  

He is being defended at Monday's hearing in Bristol by the Christian Legal Centre, which said that while some people may disagree with his style of preaching, he should be free to express his views. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said that if police continue to clamp down on street preachers, the free speech of all Christians could be at stake.

"As Christians, we love and value the work that the police do in Avon and Somerset and around the country," she said.

"However, the police have been given tremendous power that must be exercised responsibly and within the law.

"What we have found at the Christian Legal Centre is that police around the country often believe that if someone is offended by a message that they don't agree with, a crime must have been committed.

"This simply is not the case and has led to many false arrests and prosecutions. It has to be accepted that Mike's messages can be hard-hitting, but it is not the place of the state to police his message.

"Mike's case shows that unless we stand up for the preachers, there is a real risk that eventually they will come for the 'moderate' Christians; the pastors who preach and the everyday Christians who talk to their friends about controversial subjects."

Mr Overd said: "I long to continue to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to the people that I love so dearly, in Avon and Somerset.

"I was once a drunkard, a fornicator and a violent man, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ changed me forever and I am compelled to go and tell others about Him.

"I accept that sometimes I have offended people when I preach, but this is primarily because the Gospel is offensive. I accept that I do preach about Hell and sin, because Jesus did the same. If there is no sin, there is no need for a Saviour!"