Charges dropped against Christian street preachers

In a win for religious freedom, criminal charges brought against two Christian street preachers in the UK for refusing to cease their public preaching have been dropped.

John Dunn and Shaun O’Sullivan were arrested under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The preachers, represented by Christian Legal Centre, argued that “issuing a dispersal notice was unjustified and that the arrests and prosecutions were disproportionate and unlawful”. In addition, they argued they were protected under the Human Rights Act 1988 Article 9 (freedom of thought, belief and religion) and 10 (freedom of expression) rights. 

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was ultimately unable to substantiate its case, leading to the CPS dropping the charges and a ruling that the State cover the preachers’ legal and travel expenses.

Although the State ultimately dropped the charges, the initial arrest of the two men is troubling. This incident is part of a concerning trend across the UK, where reports of similar arrests of Christian preachers are increasing. Public order laws are increasingly being misused to target Christians who express their beliefs in public spaces.

Following the hearing, Mr Dunn said:

“The response from the police was completely disproportionate and a clear example of the two-tier policing that is rife on our streets right now.

When I preach, I only ever say what is in the Bible. It is very disconcerting when you are approached by police officers accusing you of a ‘hate crime’ for allegedly being ‘homophobic’ and they have rainbow lanyards around their necks. It does not give any confidence that the lawful expression of Christian beliefs on these issues will be respected or defended.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, was also critical:

“Christian open-air preaching has a long and respected history in this country and must be protected and defended at all costs.

John and Shaun are passionate about reaching the public with the Christian faith that has transformed their lives. They were well within their rights to preach and to continue preaching on Glastonbury High Street without being forced to move on or fearing arrest.

It is not an offence if someone is offended by the truth of the Bible. The police must be impartial and uphold the law, not LGBTQI+ identity politics.”

HRLA previously defended Allan Duxfield, a Christian street preacher here in Australia in 2021, successfully getting all charges against Allan dismissed, and a judgement of ‘not guilty’. In his case, overly eager Police disproportionately targeted Allan for his Christian witness. While Allan was successful, the matter never should have got to a Court in the first place.

It is critical that Christians continue to defend themselves against attempts to silence them. Every successful legal case sets an important precedent that will help Christians who are targeted in the future.

Additionally, it strongly reaffirms that rights such as freedom of religion and expression are fundamental and must be protected.

HRLA continues to defend and represent ordinary Christians being targeted for expressing their faith in public. Read more about our work here.