Bristol

Christian street preachers fined over Bristol shopping centre sermon

Preachers arrested in Bristol Image copyright Simon Holliday
Image caption Michael Overd (left) was arrested in July at Broadmead shopping centre in Bristol - Michael Stockwell is not pictured

Two street preachers who told Muslims their God "did not exist" and called a crowd of shoppers "animals" have been fined £300 each.

Michael Overd, 52, and American Michael Stockwell, 50, have been convicted of a religiously aggravated public order offence over their sermons to shoppers.

They were filmed in July preaching at Bristol's Broadmead Shopping Centre and appeared before the city's magistrates.

Christian Concern, which defended the men, is to appeal over the conviction.

The pair were convicted under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 on Tuesday.

Bristol magistrates also heard a Criminal Order Behaviour application would be made against Overd in May.

GoPro evidence

Ch Insp Andy Williams said: "The police have to strike the balance between the right to freedom of expression and free speech and behaviour that causes a member of the public to feel harassed, alarmed or distressed as a result of what is said or done.

"The court has determined that these men crossed that line and used their platform to comment on other religions and sexuality using disparaging and offensive language.

"They recorded their preaching on a GoPro camera which captured the exact words used and the reaction of those listening.

"They were fully aware of the impact their preaching was having on their audience and the resulting tension it was causing."

The court heard homophobic comments were also made to those in the crowd.

Overd, of Creech St Michael, Somerset, and Stockwell, of Selden, New York, were also ordered to jointly pay court costs of £3,372.

A third man, Adrian Clark, had the case against him dismissed on the grounds there was no case to answer.

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