Police in Taunton are advising members of the public to capture video of any offensive comments being made by a preacher in the town centre.
The Somerset Gazette report that Avon & Somerset Police have received complaints regarding the behaviour of Michael Overd during his preaching sessions in the town’s High Street. Local businesses even claim that some customers are now avoiding the area because they are feeling intimidated. Mr Overd has upset some passers-by in High Street when forthrightly expressing his views about homosexuality and sex outside marriage, something which he said that he would face the fear of possible prosecution as he loved God so much.
Sgt Neil Kimmins said: “People shouldn’t have abuse like that thrown at them. The street preacher likes to engage with individuals. He has a camera kit to protect himself from abuse and gathers evidence of people being hostile towards him. Homophobia is definitely an issue, We’re conscious of the right to free speech but it’s about getting the right balance so people can come to our town.” According to one complainant the preacher made “offensive and derogatory” comments about gay people in the town centre and continued to do so despite someone approaching him and accusing him of being offensive.
Sgt Kimmins added: “This is about ordinary people being able to go about their daily activities without the fear of receiving abuse or harassment based on their perceived marital status or sexual bias.”
Sgt Kimmins said he wants to gather evidence, which he will look at before discussing with the Crown Prosecution whether to make any charges.
He added: “I’d advise people that if they’re offended to record any incident on their mobile phone and send it to us.” Those who are present in Taunton Town Centre and feel offended by any of the content being preached by Mr Overd are advised to call the police on 101 or e-mail any video evidence they obtain to firstname.lastname@example.org