Today, a Christian volunteer is appealing a covid fine he received after being arrested for preaching and supporting the homeless on Easter Sunday 2020.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Andrew Sathiyavan, 47, will appeal the ruling of Deputy District Judge Minhas at Isleworth Crown Court, which upheld the issuing of the fine and said that he should have done his street preaching and ministry online.
Video footage of the incident reveals Andrew being questioned and arrested on Sutton High Street in south London on Easter Sunday 2020 after being told by the police that preaching the gospel was ‘not allowed.’
Andrew said he was ‘treated like a criminal for preaching about Jesus Christ.’
His appeal hearing comes as the Prime Minister and leading political parties continue to come under pressure for repeatedly breaking covid regulations during lockdown.
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.
Andrew 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.
Ahead of the hearing, Andrew said: “Gospel preaching is my work. I tell people about the Good News of Jesus Christ, which preachers have done for centuries in this country. I seek to reach people living in fear and without hope.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The treatment of Andrew Sathiyavan was disturbing.
“This is a man who spends his life reaching and serving the poorest and most marginalised in our society – the people who fall through the cracks and are left behind by the system.
“This man has a heart for the poorest in our society and for trying to reach out to them found himself locked up in a cell and strip searched.
“The police presence on Sutton High Street caused a greater risk to public health than if they had allowed Andrew to continue preaching.
“The inconsistencies in the policing on these issues during the pandemic has been stark. Christian preachers seem to be easy targets and other groups favoured.”
Believing he was a key religious worker under the government’s Covid guidelines, on Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020, Andrew was preaching on Sutton High Street when he was approached by three police officers.
Video footage revealed an officer initially suggesting to Andrew 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.
Andrew 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 Andrew 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.”
Andrew responded: ‘So you are arresting me for preaching.’ The officer says: ‘No, no one is going to arrest you.’
Deliveroo service allowed
One officer then pointed to two people on the high street whom he said were allowed to be there because they worked for takeaway food service, Deliveroo. ‘They are delivering food and are providing a service’, he said.
As Andrew continued to ask questions, one officer took a step towards him, leant in and directed him to ‘Stop now. There is a viral pandemic which means you need to be at home, not on a high street preaching the Word of God.’
‘Does it [covid regs] say I am not allowed to preach the gospel’, Andrew asks, and in unison the officers all reply ‘yes’.
PC Routledge then lost his patience, and said ‘give me your name and number, you’re getting a fine, I’m fed up with this.’
PC Routledge confiscated Andrew’s wooden cross, read him the caution and handcuffed him.
Andrew said: “This is England. You get arrested for preaching the gospel. This is England.”
Andrew was then taken to custody and held for four hours and then released.
Find out more about Andrew Sathiyavan