Christian street preacher vindicated after 2-year court fight

A British court decision has vindicated a Christian volunteer who was arrested and fined for preaching on a street and supporting the homeless during the COVID lockdowns, following a two-year court battle.

Christian Concern said Andrew Sathiyavan, 47, who serves with Gospel Light Ministries, was cleared in a ruling from the Isleworth Crown Court, where Judge Simon Davis, joined by Michelle O’Keefe and Aun Qurashi, found he had a reasonable excuse for leaving his house during the lockdown under the regulations the government imposed.

In fact, he was providing a “voluntary and charitable service,” the ruling said.

The court said, there were “no other alternatives” for Sathiyavan to carry out his ministry and that: “We accepted that, on that particular day [the most important in the Christian calendar] the focus of Mr Sathiyavan’s ministry was the homeless, the poor and drug addicts, many of whom will not have ready access to Facebook, the internet or other forms of social media.”

The arrest happened on Easter Sunday.

The ruling said Sathiyavan’s “motives were genuine; that he believed he was carrying out a serious endeavour” and cited his upbringing in Sri Lanka serving the poor and Jesus’ commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

“We accepted that, on that particular Easter Day, the fact that there were few people on the High Street in Sutton was immaterial to Mr Sathiyavan for, as he told the Court, if ONE PERSON was ‘saved’ that was sufficient as he would have done as Christ did, namely, to go in search of the one lost sheep.”

Sathiyavan was supported by the Christian Legal Center, and had appealed his lower court conviction and its affirmation of a fine for him.

His lawyer, Michael Phillips, argued on appeal the actions of the police were “disproportionate” and the COVID rules polices officers followed were an “unreasonable interference with the Mr Sathiyavan’s rights under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.”

It was on Easter 2020 that Sathiyavan was “confronted” by London police on Sutton High Street. They told him preaching the Gospel was “not allowed” and his ministering was “anti-social behavior.”

He was handcuffed and hauled to a jail cell in a riot van.

Sathiyavan said, “I am relieved that the case against me has finally been dropped. I was treated like a criminal for preaching about Jesus Christ.”

He added, “I was and still am shocked at how I was treated and how long it has taken for this case to be dismissed. If the judge had not made this ruling today, I would have had a criminal record.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, said: “This story has highlighted how Christian preachers were easy targets compared to many others sectors of society including members of the government! The previous ruling, which said that Andy should have taken his work preaching and supporting the homeless online, was simply wrong and failed to understand and engage with what Christian ministry is.”

Williams explained, “What Andy was doing on Easter Sunday 2020 was what Christian witness should have looked like during the pandemic – ministering to people’s physical and spiritual needs. Instead, we have saw Christian preachers and pastors, like Andy, who have a heart for reaching those in great need in their communities, fined, arrested, and prosecuted for doing so.”

Records show one of the officers, PC Routledge, complained that the preacher was there “without a purpose,” and therefore could be fined.

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