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Street preacher awarded £2,500 in damages after wrongful arrest

Christian street preacher Oluwole Ilesanmi has been offered the money in exemplary damages from the Metropolitan Police in relation to his false arrest, imprisonment and unlawful detention.

On February 23rd, the 64 year old was preaching outside Southgate Underground station when he had his Bible taken off him by police and arrested. He was later released without charge.

Pastor Olu said he was dropped off by police in an unfamiliar area without any money to get home.

Police initially claimed he was breaching the peace but later launched an internal investigation into the arrest.

He's now been awarded damages for the ordeal which include general damages for false imprisonment in the sum of £500, plus £1,000 for the exceptional humiliation and degradation and £1,000 for the mental trauma caused to Pastor Oluwole.

Pastor Oluwole said: "I am glad that the police have recognised that it was not right to arrest me for preaching from the Bible. It was traumatic being arrested and left many miles from my home. But God was always with me and even though I was left in a place I did not know, I was determined to get back to Southgate and start preaching the gospel again.

"When I came to the UK it was a free Christian country, but now preachers like me are being arrested for speaking the truth. Christians and freedom of speech must be protected, especially by the government and police. I hope this recognition of fault can lead to more Christians being protected and the police gaining greater insight into what it means to lawfully proclaim the Word of God on our streets.

"I am amazed and so grateful for the support I have received from people across the world and the Christian Legal Centre."

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "Street preaching has a long and honoured history in the UK. In many ways it is symbolic of the kind of freedoms we have treasured in this nation. 

"So whilst we are pleased that the police have agreed to pay compensation for what has happened to Pastor Oluwole, we now need to see tangible action from the government, the police and the Mayor of London, offering assurances that Christian street preachers are free to preach the gospel within the law without fear of prosecution."

On Tuesday, Pastor Oluwole will hand a Christian Concern petition to the Home Office, signed by 38,000 people, asking for greater protection for street preachers and to investigate the training given to police officers nationwide to ensure that they protect the freedom to preach in public.

Street preaching is not illegal in the UK with law permitting anyone the freedom to speak in public places.

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