Police advise people to video street preacher 'if he make offensive remarks' (From This is The West Country)
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Police advise people to video street preacher 'if he make offensive remarks'
4:44pm Thursday 12th June 2014 in News
POLICE are advising people to video a street preacher on their mobiles if they think he is making offensive remarks.
Complaints have been made about Michael Overd following a number of confrontations in Taunton town centre, officers say.
Mr Overd has upset some passers-by in High Street when forthrightly expressing his views about homosexuality and sex outside marriage.
Officers have spoken to him and potential witnesses, including the manager of a business who claims some customers avoided the area on Saturday because they felt intimidated.
Sgt Neil Kimmins said: “People shouldn’t have abuse like that thrown at them.
“The street preacher likes to engage with individuals.
“He has a camera kit to protect himself from abuse and gathers evidence of people being hostile towards him.
“He’s being hostile towards them and they are responding.
“Homophobia is definitely an issue.
“We’re conscious of the right to free speech but it’s about getting the right balance so people can come to our town.”
Sgt Kimmins said he wants to gather evidence, which he will look at before discussing with the Crown Prosecution whether to make any charges.
He added: “I’d advise people that if they’re offended to record any incident on their mobile phone and send it to us.”
According to one complainant the preacher made “offensive and derogatory” comments about gay people in the town centre on Saturday and continued to do so despite someone approaching him and accusing him of being offensive.
Sgt Kimmins said: “This is about ordinary people being able to go about their daily activities without the fear of receiving abuse or harassment based on their perceived marital status or sexual bias.”
Approached by the County Gazette as he preached in Taunton town centre yesterday (Wednesday) Mr Overd, from Creech St Michael, said: “I’ve said fornication is a sin. I’m preaching what the Bible says.
“The Bible is an offence to sinners...they hate the word and the preacher. Sometimes we hate the truth.
“I’d rather people not be offended but I know they will be. I love them enough to tell them the truth.”
He said he loved God so much that he could face the fear of possible prosecution.
“I’ve done nothing wrong before Almighty God. My conscience is clear,” he added.
Anyone who feels offended by the street preacher can call police on 101 or e-mail any video evidence they obtain to email@example.com Mr Overd was cleared of harassment following a trial at Taunton Deane Magistrates’ Courts in February 2012.
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