Friday, 10 February 2012
A preacher has been found not guilty of a public order offence after a complaint from two homosexuals.
Michael Overd, from Taunton, was part of a street witness and was preaching from 1Cor 6:9-11 in October 2010 when two homosexual men, Craig Nicholl and Craig Manning, passed him holding hands. Hearing the word ‘homosexual’ in the passage, they turned round, went up to Mr Overd and began shouting at him, using despicable foul language. The Court was told Mr Nicholl spat at the preacher.
On a second occasion, 16th July 2011, Michael Overd was preaching alone when the two approached him. In full flow, he said, ‘Even these two dear men, whom I’ve met before, caught in the sin of homosexuality, can have forgiveness of their sin.’
The two Craigs, who recently entered into a ‘civil partnership’, again began screaming at the preacher and making, he told Taunton Deane Magistrates Court, all kinds of homosexually-charged comments and allegations at him. Not satisfied with that, they called the police, but so aggressive did they become, it was Mr Overd who was glad to see the boys in blue.
Michael Overd was prosecuted under Section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986:
Section 4A – Intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress:
‘A person is guilty if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he
‘a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
‘b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
‘thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.’.
But the Court found that Michael Overd did not have any such intent and found him not guilty.
Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, heard the evidence in court and said after the verdict:
‘Coming on a day when both the Bulls and Bideford Council lost their cases in the High Court, this verdict is welcome news. Christians find themselves today in an environment where they can be insulted, sworn at, threatened with violence, even spat at, and then themselves charged with a public order offence. Clearer instructions and better training need to filter down to police officers so that cases like this do not waste the time of the court. This case should never have been brought and the verdict is a victory for Christian liberty and for freedom of speech.’
Messrs Nicholl and Manning, who described each other in court as ‘my husband’ , alleged that Michael Overd told them they would ‘burn in hell’ but this turned out to be as much a figment of their imagination as the idea that they are in any way ‘married’ to each other. Four witnesses told the court that they had never heard Mr Overd use such language.
An amusing moment happened when the prosecutor tried to explore the defendant’s view on certain subjects as heaven and hell, abortion, fornication and homosexuality. Time after time, Mr Overd referred the lawyer to the Bible, saying that he believed what was in it. In the end, the chairman of the magistrates lost patience, and said to the prosecutor, ‘I think we have established that his beliefs are based on what he reads in the Bible.’
By the end of the evidence, the Court was left in no doubt as to who would not inherit the kingdom of God. In the King James Version: 1Cor 6:9 ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.’
Michael Overd was represented in court by Paul Diamond of counsel instructed by Michael Phillips, solicitor