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Photo Credit: Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire/ PA Images
Photo Credit: Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire/ PA Images
UK News

Case dropped against voluntary Christian worker fined for helping homeless during lockdown

by Chantalle Edmunds

A Christian volunteer, who preached from the bible and told homeless people where they could get food during lockdown, has had a case against him dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Jan Niedojadlo, 56, from Taunton, was fined £60 by Avon and Somerset Police in early April 2020.

On Saturday 4 April 2020, believing under covid regulations he was permitted to perform his voluntary duties on the streets, Mr Niedojadlo went to Taunton town centre to raise awareness among the homeless about where they could receive support.

He encountered one homeless woman who was distressed and in need. He prayed for her and told her where she could find help. He also began to preach from the Bible seeking to provide a message of hope.

Mr Niedojadlo was approached by a community support officer who asked why he was out during lockdown. He told the officer that he was volunteering for a Christian organisation and was therefore exempt from the regulations. A list of critical workers published by the government included: "charities and workers delivering key frontline services".

The community officer said if he did not leave, she would have to call the police to 'give you a ticket,' as reported by Christian Concern. 

Shortly afterwards two police officers arrived asking for evidence that Mr Niedojadlo was exempt. Despite providing proof, an officer issued him with a fixed penalty notice.

Police stated that he was charged with being away from home without a valid reason under Covid regulations.

Mr Niedojadlo has been supported by the Christian Legal Centre. His case comes following a group of MPs on the Joint Committee on Human Rights calling for all 85,000 covid fines issued during the pandemic to be reviewed.

More than a year later in April 2021, as part of the case brought to court, key witness, Karen King, the organiser of the Lord's Kitchen in Taunton confirmed that the service was allowed to operate during April 2020 under covid regulations and that Mr Niedojadlo was part of the team delivering the voluntary service.    

Providing an expert witness report for the case, Dr Martin Parsons concluded that the case represented a potentially: "significant conflict between this aspect of freedom of religion both in terms of how it has been developed in British constitutional history and the interpretation of current Coronavirus regulations by Avon and Somerset Police."

The CPS dropped the case concluding: 'The decision to discontinue these charges has been taken because Only one option should be chosen from 1 - 3a prosecution is not needed in the public interest.'

Responding to the court's decision, Mr Niedojadlo said: "I am relieved that the court has seen sense, but the case should never have got this far.

"In April 2020 when the whole country was being told to 'stay at home to save lives', the lives of the homeless were especially in danger and were forgotten. There are significant issues with homelessness in the Taunton area and the support I and we were providing was a lifeline at an extremely difficult time.

"The whole purpose of me being out on the streets was to bring hope to the homeless.

"The attitude of the community support officer and the police towards me was unbelievably hostile and dismissive. I was treated like a nuisance. There was a lack of respect, humanity and understanding of what Christian outreach and preaching is and why it is important.

"I hope my case will serve to help others, who may have been treated similarly, to contest any fines they have received and not to be intimidated into silence and inaction."

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