Preacher fined for breaching Covid rules loses bid to overturn penalty

Preacher arrested and fined for breaching Covid rules by giving sermon in street during first Covid lockdown loses legal bid to overturn £400 penalty

  • Andrew Sathiyavan, 46, charged £432 after preaching in south London last year
  • Footage shows officers confiscating his wooden cross before handcuffing him
  • Mr Sathiyavan contested penalty but judge ruled police were right to arrest him
  • He was handed additional £100 fine, plus £300 costs and £32 victim surcharge 

A preacher who was arrested and fined for breaching Covid-19 rules by giving a sermon in the street during the first lockdown has lost a legal bid to overturn the £400 penalty.

Andrew Sathiyavan, 46, was charged £432 after preaching the Christian gospel in Sutton, south London, on Easter Sunday last year.

Footage shows officers confiscating Mr Sathiyavan’s wooden cross before handcuffing him and bundling him into a police van. 

He contested the fine at City of London magistrates court on June 18 but the judge ruled police were right to arrest him.

He was handed an additional £100 fine, plus £300 costs and a £32 victim surcharge.

Andrew Sathiyavan (pictured above), 46, was charged £432 after preaching the Christian gospel in Sutton, south London, on Easter Sunday last year


Footage shows officers handcuffing Mr Sathiyavan (left) and bundling him into a police van (right). One initially told him the amplification he was using was causing a disturbance 

Mr Sathiyavan was evangelising on a busy high street when three officers approached and asked him to stop.

One initially told Mr Sathiyavan he had to stop preaching because the amplification he was using was causing a disturbance – not for breaching Covid-19 regulations.

In the footage, Mr Sathiyavan can be seen asking an officer if he is ‘breaking the law by preaching the gospel’.

The officer said: ‘We are not saying you are breaking the law, but it is causing anti-social behaviour.’

But a third policeman then told Mr Sathiyavan that he was ‘breaching Covid laws’ because he was there ‘without a purpose’.

He added: ‘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.’

Mr Sathiyavan responded: ‘So you are arresting me for preaching.’

The officer replies: ‘No, no one is going to arrest you.’

But he was eventually arrested after refusing to move on, arguing he had a right to preach the Christian gospel. 

In the footage, Mr Sathiyavan (pictured holding a wooden cross) can be seen asking an officer if he is ‘breaking the law by preaching the gospel’

Deputy District Judge Minhas agreed with The Crown’s argument that he could have live-streamed his sermon from home (pictured: Mr Sathiyavan being arrested in Sutton last year)

Contesting the fine, Mr Sathiyavan said he helps homeless people and needs to be out in person to support these groups.

But Deputy District Judge Minhas agreed with The Crown’s argument that he could have live-streamed his sermon from home.

The same preacher was reportedly arrested and fined £400 for breaching Covid rules in Solihull, West Midlands, in November last year.

But a judge is said to have later waived his fine and conviction due to insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

He is now appealing the most recent ruling and also plans to launch legal action against the police over both incidents.

Mr Sathiyavan 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. In this instance the police escalated the situation for no reason. I was treated like a criminal.’

Officers seen confiscating the preacher’s wooden cross. Mr Sathiyavan was evangelising on a busy high street when three officers approached and asked him to stop

Mr Sathiyavan pictured being taken into a police van following the incident in Sutton, south London, on Easter Sunday last year

The preacher then claimed: ‘In a separate incident when I was preaching in Birmingham, I was followed, harassed, arrested and then strip searched in custody by the police.’ 

He added: ‘I have no alternative but to appeal and pursue legal action against the police. I don’t want Christians and preachers to be treated as I have been.’

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.

‘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.

‘We will stand with Andrew as he now appeals and pursues legal action.’

 

MailOnline has reached out to the Met and West Midlands Police for comment. 

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