Somerset

Taunton street preacher convicted for homophobic sermon

Michael Overd
Image caption Prosecutors said Mr Overd gave sermons in June and July last year

A Christian street preacher has been convicted of delivering homophobic sermons in the middle of a high street.

Michael Overd, from Creech St Michael, made the remarks over loudspeakers in Taunton, Somerset, last summer.

He was cleared of a second similar charge and another of causing "racially-aggravated" harassment aimed at Muslims.

Overd, 50, was fined £200 and ordered to pay compensation and costs totalling £1,200 at Bristol Crown Court.

Sentencing, judge Shamim Qureshi told Overd he "knew full well the power of words to hurt".

'Double standards'

After being told he would have to pay £250 to his victim, Overd initially refused but was threatened with a 45-day prison sentence if he did not.

He agreed to pay, but said the judgement was "flawed" and told the judge he would have to "answer to the same god".

Judge Qureshi told the preacher he seemed to enjoy testing the laws on free speech to their limits.

He said: "In my view he enjoys coaxing people into asking him questions so that he can reply loudly into the microphone to answer them.

"The only semblance of civilised conversation is when they commend him, if they disagree he shouts them down."

However, Overd had "double standards", the judge said, believing he was right and everyone else was wrong.

During sentencing he said Overd "does not display any scholarly approach to the topics but merely preaches whatever little he had learnt, regardless of being rude or bullying to others.

"He happily shouts out the negative points in any other religion."

Asked after the case whether he would tone down his sermons, Mr Overd said: "I follow my Lord and leader, so I won't tone down."

A trial at Taunton Magistrates' Court heard many complaints had been received about comment made during Overd's sermons.

Mr Overd had faced two charges of using threatening and abusive words, and a third of causing racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.

The incidents took place in June and July last year during his sermons in Taunton's High Street.

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