A preacher who was forcibly stopped and moved on by police for ‘attracting a crowd’ with his public speaking and singing has been awarded £1,250 after it was found that he did not breach coronavirus guidelines.
Dominic Muir, who runs Christian charities Now Believe and Jesus Fields, was preaching and singing Amazing Grace in Blandford, Dorset, on April, 22, when the UK was in its first lockdown. A police officer asked him to move on and then grabbed him by the wrist to get him to leave.
Dorset Police believe the officer used ‘reasonable force’ but they reached an out-of-court settlement paying Dominic £1,250 in damages and costs.
Onlookers filmed the encounter and a video shows the preacher speaking about the gospel on the back of a truck.
An officer approaches him and said: ‘I’m going to have to ask you to move on.’
But Dominic says: ‘I don’t have to move on, I have done this all over the county, I have done this all over the county.’
They argued for a bit and the policeman tells the preacher he can have a few minutes to wrap up.
But less than a minute later Dominic claims cop ‘aggresively’ mounted the truck and grabbed his wrist so hard it was ‘painful’.
The 44-year-old said: ‘I couldn’t believe it, there I was out bringing the message of the gospel, the message of hope, people were listening and a police man came and put a stop to what I was doing.
‘Suddenly, out of nowhere gets on the back of my vehicle, grabs my arm strongly.
‘It was humiliating. It was intimidating. It was shocking. I felt like a criminal. And the whole outreach, the message of salvation, was totally halted.
‘The reason why this case matters so much is right now we are in the middle of a pandemic where people are committing sucide, there’s mass depression, domestic violence, people are losing their jobs.
‘I have no doubt that if I had continued to preach or sing, I would have been handcuffed, arrested and taken to the police station.
‘During the pandemic I have honoured social distancing, but I also have a legitimate job to do, which is to preach the gospel.
‘For centuries, street preaching in the UK was an honoured profession that was respected and deemed essential to people’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
‘To be shut down by the police like this represented a huge shift for me and shows the extent of society’s secularisation.
‘My hope going forward is that there would be a respect accorded to Christian ministers and charities that seek to bring hope to those in desperate situations whose greatest need is their spiritual need.’
A Dorset Police spokesperson said officers were called to a breach of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
They said: ‘When they arrived they discovered that the complainant was preaching in the area in question, which was considered by the Force as a breach of the Government’s COVID-19 legislation.
‘His conduct was attracting other people to the scene, which was creating a gathering – something we considered also breached the rules in place.
‘It is important to remember that there was a significant risk to public health at the time of these events as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘The officer tried to engage with the complainant and encourage him to stop. However, he failed to cooperate so the officer used reasonable force to remove him from the truck.
‘The complainant then left the scene voluntarily. In total, any detention by the officer in question lasted less than a minute.
‘We can confirm that while liability in relation to an alleged assault by an officer was denied, a without prejudice offer of £50 was made to the complainant and accepted.
‘The force also agreed to £1,200 in legal costs to the complainant’s legal representative, as is standard practice when claims are settled in this manner.’
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