Magistrates exonerate street preacher fined by the Met

(Christian Today) London magistrates have thrown out a cause against a street preacher who was fined by the Metropolitan Police for evangelising out on the streets on Good Friday in 2020.

Joshua Sutcliffe, 31, was preaching and handing out leaflets with a friend in Camden, north London, on 10 April 2020.

He was detained by officers for supposedly being outdoors without a reasonable excuse and breaching Covid regulations.

He explained that as a pastor and and worship leader, he was allowed to be outside providing charitable services, but officers rejected his explanation and gave him a caution and a fixed penalty notice of £60.

Contesting the fine at the City of London Magistrates Court this month, Mr Sutcliffe said that he had given a homeless man his shoes, something he would not have been able to do if he had only been preaching online.

The fine was overturned by the court, which ruled that Mr Sutcliffe and his friend were “entitled to gather for street evangelising”, and that he “had a reasonable excuse as he was travelling to his place of work, as a worship leader.”

Commenting on the judgment, Mr Sutcliffe said he had been surrounded by four police officers during the incident, which he had found “very intimidating”.

“They treated me like a second-class citizen,” he said.

“I am a Christian minister of the gospel, which not so long ago was a treasured and respected vocation in the UK.

“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 reason and justice prevailed.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Mr Sutcliffe, said that while she was pleased he had been acquitted, she was concerned the case had even reached the court.

“We are seeing a lot of inconsistencies from police and the judiciary in these cases,” she said.

“Christians have been easy targets for police during the pandemic while other groups gathering in significant numbers have been favoured by the police.

“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.”