A court has dropped charges against a retired teacher, who had been ordered by a female police constable to stop preaching outside a court house in Banbury.
According to the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), Bill Edwards, 73, had been preaching outside the Banbury Magistrates Court House, but ordered to move on after some people claimed that his preaching was ‘offensive’.
He refused, whereupon the PC informed him that he would be arrested. After he followed her to the local police station, he was grabbed by six officers, taken to the ground and arrested.
He was charged with assault and breach of the peace. However, on 11 February, Mr Edwards was represented in court by Michael Phillips, a solicitor instructed by the CLC.
The district judge at Oxford Magistrates Court informed the pensioner that he ‘had no case to answer’, and had the charges dropped. The judge also expressed doubt that the officer had acted in the execution of her duty, rejected the police’s restraint order that would have prevented Mr Edwards from preaching, and ordered the preacher’s travel expenses to be covered by the prosecution.
Andrea Williams, CLC chief executive, said, ‘It is alarming that an elderly individual could be treated by authorities in this way simply for preaching in public. This is one of many instances where we have seen the police use heavy-handed tactics against lawful street preaching.
‘It raises serious questions about their understanding of the way in which the law should be interpreted and applied in this area, and is indicative of the growing trend to remove Christian preachers off the streets’.
Last month, ET reported on two important amendments to English law that should allow greater freedoms for street preachers.