A Christian pastor who was fined and prosecuted by police last year while preaching outside has now been cleared of all charges by the London Magistrates Court.
Joshua Sutcliffe, 31, was stopped by Metropolitan Police on April 10, 2020, as he shared the Gospel and passed out pamphlets in Camden, North London. Officers told him that being outdoors without what they considered to be a legitimate reason was a violation of the COVID-19 lockdown orders, Christian Legal Centre said in a statement.
Sutcliffe explained to the officers that he was a pastor and was outdoors providing charitable work to those in need. He was still fined $80 for allegedly breaking the law.
He challenged the fine on July 6, 2021, and was found "not guilty on all charges."
The court judgment stated, "We find that the defendant was outside and that he had a reasonable excuse as he was traveling to his place of work, as a worship leader. Their gathering was limited in duration, and they were entitled to gather for street evangelizing."
Magistrates in London have ruled a Christian street preacher, who was fined and prosecuted, was entitled to evangelize and gather during lockdown.
The Christian Legal Centre supported the case. https://t.co/etl50Zjv49
— Christian Concern (@CConcern) July 26, 2021
During his response to the ruling, Sutcliffe commented on the mistreatment he received by police during the incident.
"At one point, I was surrounded by four police officers, which was very intimidating. They treated me like a second-class citizen. I am a Christian minister of the Gospel, which not so long ago was a treasured and respected vocation in the UK."
He added, "During times of need, people need the hope of the gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ. 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."
"I am very glad the magistrates threw the case out and that justice prevailed," the pastor declared.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said attorneys were delighted by the court's decision but concerned that the case had gone that far.
"We are pleased that the court has acquitted Joshua, but are concerned that it even made it this far," she said. "We are seeing a lot of inconsistencies from police and the judiciary in these cases. Christians have been easy targets for police during the pandemic while other groups gathering in significant numbers have been favored by the police."
Williams added, "After being cautioned on Good Friday, Joshua continued to preach, even giving his own shoes to a homeless man and walking home barefoot. This is what Christian witness should have looked like during this time of crisis – ministering to people's physical and spiritual needs. Instead, we have seen Christian preachers and pastors, like Joshua, who have a heart for reaching those in great need in their communities fined, arrested, and prosecuted for doing so."