‘It was intimidating and humiliating to be confronted by police’
First, police officers in Dorset, England, ordered a street preacher to shut up.
Then they physically manhandled him.
Now they’ve paid him more than $1,600 in damages.
The incident took place April 22 at the height of COVID restrictions when Dominic Muir, 44, the head of New Believe and Jesus Fields Christian ministries, was standing in the back of his pickup truck on mostly deserted streets in Blandford Forum town center in Dorset, according to the U.K. charity Christian Concern.
He was singing and then started preaching.
Within minutes, he was approached by a police officer who said, “I am going to have to move you on.”
Muir insisted he had right to preach in public, but the officer said, “I am going to need you to produce some paperwork to say that you are allowed to do that here.”
When Muir continued preaching, the officer waited a few minutes, then shouted, “Time’s up!” and clambered up on the truck and grabbed Muir.
Muir convinced the officer to let go of his arm, then he packed up his equipment and left.
“During the course of the lockdown, Christian ministry in general was treated as non-essential by the U.K. government, which led to a wave of police clampdowns on street preaching, and even some Christian homeless ministries,” Christian Concern said. “Following the incident, Dominic sought help from the Christian Legal Centre, which assisted him with a pre-action letter to the Chief Constable of Dorset Police, seeking compensation for the police assault.”
The letter noted the COVID regulations did not prohibit the right to free speech.
“In response, Dorset police have now admitted that the officer acted unlawfully, and have paid £1,250 in damages and costs,” the report said.
Muir said: “It was intimidating and humiliating to be confronted by the police in this way and treated as a potential criminal. 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.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Christian ministry in church or on the street should never have been deemed as ‘non-essential’ nor as a problem which needed to go away during lockdown. This must never happen again. Dominic Muir had not broken lockdown restrictions. He was singing and preaching about the hope of Jesus Christ on the back of his truck at a time of great uncertainty and need for many.”