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UK News

'The Christian voice has been marginalised': Street preacher appeals Easter 2020 Covid breach fine

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian street preacher began a two-day court hearing on Tuesday appealing a Covid breach fine he received after police arrested him for preaching on Easter Sunday 2020.

47-year-old Andrew Sathiyavan is appealing the ruling at Isleworth Crown Court, which increased the fine from £100 to £500 and said that he should have done his street preaching and ministry online.

Sathiyavan is a full-time voluntary worker for Gospel Light Ministries and regularly preaches across the UK. His voluntary work involves preaching, supporting the homeless and people suffering from drug and alcohol addictions.

He told Premier he felt the judge was out of touch with what a street preacher does. 

"I'm thinking to myself, how can you reach out to the homeless online? I could not get my head around how could you reach out to a drug addict or people on the street who are really broken, let alone going online, they don't even have a phone to access online. So I'm thinking to myself, the judge at my first hearing did not even listen to my story."

The appeal hearing comes as the country awaits the Sue Gray report, which will look into 10 Downing Street breaking covid regulations during lockdown.  

Christian Concern, which is providing legal support to Sathiyavan, said: "The case highlights serious inconsistencies in the approach of the police to the regulations with members of the government and protestors acting with impunity throughout the pandemic and without police intervention."

Sathiyavan told Premier the issue is an example of the marginalisation of Christians in the UK.

"As a whole, I can see that the Christian voice has been marginalized. It's completely kind of almost shut down because I remember clearly, in 2019, when our Prime Minister Boris Johnson came into power, he specifically said, 'one of my mottos is to defend Christian rights and stand along with Christian freedom'. So I was I'm thinking just five months later, under his watch as a Christian preacher I'm being taken into jail."

Video footage revealed an officer initially suggesting to Sathiyavan that they had been called to the scene because the amplification he was using to preach was causing a disturbance - not for breaching Covid regulations.

Sathiyavan asked an officer if he was 'breaking the law by preaching the gospel, sir'? The officer responded: 'We are not saying you are breaking the law, but it is causing anti-social behaviour.'

A third officer, PC Routledge, then told Sathiyavan that he was 'breaching covid laws because you are here without a purpose. You are not exercising, you are not going to work, so you can get a fine.

'Under covid laws you are allowed to be outside if you are going to the shops, exercising or going to work. You are doing neither; you are preaching and that is unacceptable."

Sathiyavan  believes police officers who arrested him and took him into custody should have viewed him as a key worker.

"[During lockdown] everything was shut down, no shops, no public places that they can go to. Even the churches were shut down. So people were getting stressed out further and further. And they are getting more into alcohol, drugs... so they wanted someone to come and stand beside them, talk to them. So I feel, it was a very important to be there. And I consider it equally as important as a doctor or a nurse."

Listen to Premier's interview with Andrew Sathiyavan here: 

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