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Twitter/Daniel Mateola
Twitter/Daniel Mateola
UK News

Police apologise after pastor holding online service is wrongly accused of breaking coronavirus regulations

by Press Association

Police have apologised after a pastor was accused of breaking coronavirus regulations while holding a religious service online.

Reverend Daniel Mateola said he was "treated like a criminal" when officers arrived at Kingdom Faith Ministries International Church in Milton Keynes earlier this month.

Thames Valley Police said there had been a "misunderstanding" by officers in "what is an ever-changing and complex area of enforcement".

Two officers attended after reports of loud music, the organisation Christian Concern said, and demanded support staff for the service leave the building as they were breaking regulations.

But when the pastor insisted they were acting within the rules and tried to direct them to the guidance, seven more officers were called to the scene, the organisation said.

There were around 15 people in the building, each with a specific role for the online broadcast on the evening of November 20 and in separate rooms socially distancing, Christian Concern said.

The support staff eventually left and the service, which was being held for around 150 members of the congregation online to address struggles men have suffered in the pandemic, ended after "an hour of disruption", the organisation added.

During England's second national lockdown - which is due to end on December 2 - while communal worship is not allowed, guidance states that support staff including musicians and singers can attend a place of worship for a broadcast service if they are considered "essential".

It states the numbers involved "should be kept as small as possible" and people should follow social distancing guidance.

A few days later on November 24 officers arrived at Reverend Mateola's doorstep and informed him he would be prosecuted for breaking Covid-19 regulations, Christian Concern said.

In a statement released through the organisation, the pastor said: "I am relieved that the police have recognised their mistake and have apologised.

"I have been treated like a criminal while legally seeking to be a blessing and to bring hope to my fellow citizens at a time of great need physically, emotionally and spiritually."

He added: "If the police do not understand the regulations it is small wonder that church leaders are confused."

Chief Superintendent Robert France, from Thames Valley Police, said: "We have robust review processes in place to look at all enforcement and tickets issued around the coronavirus legislation.

"This incident was reviewed earlier this week and the ticket is in the process of being rescinded and the party involved has been updated.

"There has been a mistake in the issuing of this ticket and I would like to apologise for the distress I know this is likely to have caused."

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