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dominic muir street preacher Credit Christian Legal Centre.jpg header2.jpg
dominic muir street preacher Credit Christian Legal Centre.jpg
UK News

Street preacher awarded compensation after police stopped speech

A street preacher said he has a "renewed sense of boldness" after winning compensation from Dorset police.

Dominic Muir has told Premier that he would also like an apology from the force, after they stopped him preaching in April in Blandford Forum town centre. 

In the early stages of the national lockdown, Mr Muir took his pick-up truck to the market town near Poole but was told by an officer eight minutes into his message: "I am going to have to move you on." 

The officer referenced Covid restrictions as, at the time, people were not permitted to leave their house except for essential reasons, such as going to the shops to buy food or going to work if you were a key worker. 

The police offer said: "I am going to need you to produce some paperwork to say that you are allowed to do that here."

Mr Muir said that he needed five minutes to give his talk, which he was given, but claims that after three minutes the officer shouted: "Time's up!" and mounted Mr Muir's truck and grabbed him by the left arm. 

Mr Muir told Premier: "The policeman decided that I had to finish whether I liked it or not, I actually hadn't completed the time allotted that he'd given me. I think he was a bit upset by the message. He decided he was going to forcibly stop the message. So when he mounted the vehicle, that was when I definitely felt quite shocked, a bit fearful. I felt humiliated because he grabbed my arm in a way that I thought he was going to actually put handcuffs on me and put me in a car."

Mr Muir asked the officer to remove his hand from his arm and put away his equipment. 

He was then forced to leave the area.

Following this, the Christian Legal Centre assisted Mr Muir with a letter to the Chief Constable of Dorset Police seeking compensation for the police assault.

In response, the Christian Legal Centre say Dorset Police have admitted the officer acted unlawfully and have paid £1250 in damages and costs.

Dorset Police gave Premier this statement:  

"Officers were called to Market Place in Blandford at 12.58pm on Wednesday 22 April 2020 to reports of a Covid-19 breach as part of the lockdown restrictions that were in place at the time. 

"When they arrived they discovered that the complainant was preaching in the area in question, which was considered by the Force as a breach of the Government's Covid-19 legislation. His conduct was attracting other people to the scene, which was creating a gathering - something we considered also breached the rules in place. It is important to remember that there was a significant risk to public health at the time of these events as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The officer tried to engage with the complainant and encourage him to stop. However, he failed to cooperate so the officer used reasonable force to remove him from the truck. The complainant then left the scene voluntarily. In total, any detention by the officer in question lasted less than a minute.

"We can confirm that while liability in relation to an alleged assault by an officer was denied, a without prejudice offer of £50 was made to the complainant and accepted. The Force also agreed to £1,200 in legal costs to the complainant's legal representative, as is standard practice when claims are settled in this manner."

Lawyers argued that the officer's sole intention was to stop Mr Muir from exercising his right to free speech, which was not prohibited by the Covid regulations.

"I have no doubt that if I had continued to preach or sing, I would have been handcuffed, arrested and taken to the police station," Mr Muir said. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "Dominic Muir had not broken lockdown restrictions. He was singing and preaching about the hope of Jesus Christ on the back of his truck at a time of great uncertainty and need for many.

"We welcome that Dorset Police have recognised that they acted unlawfully. We call for greater respect and understanding from the police to street preachers now and beyond the pandemic."

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