A street preacher who was wrongfully arrested and driven out of the local area for simply declaring the gospel has won a payout from the police.
Oluwole Ilesanmi was preaching outside Southgate Underground Station in North London when he was approached by police and arrested for “breaching the peace.” Law enforcement then transferred him by car to a remote location over five miles away, where he was “de-arrested” and left to find his own way home.
Now, after a petition was launched urging the British Home Secretary to investigate the training given to police officers regarding the freedom to preach in public, Olu has been awarded something of a victory — a cash payout from the offending police force.
London’s Metropolitan Police have given the preacher £2,500 in exemplary damages, UK-based advocacy group Christian Concern revealed to Faithwire.
“I am glad that the police have recognized that it was not right to arrest me for preaching from the Bible,” Olu said following news of the payout. “It was traumatic being arrested and left many miles from my home. But God was always with me and even though I was left in a place I did not know, I was determined to get back to Southgate and start preaching the gospel again.”
Ilesanmi, who will personally present the petition to the Home Office on Wednesday, noted that when he came to the UK from Nigeria, “it was a free Christian country,” but that, now, preachers like him “are being arrested for speaking the truth.”
“Christians and freedom of speech must be protected, especially by the government and police. I hope this recognition of fault can lead to more Christians being protected and the police gaining greater insight into what it means to lawfully proclaim the Word of God on our streets,” he added.
In a statement following news of the victory, Christian Concern’s founder Andrea Williams noted that “police officers are quick to silence preachers at the first suggestion that a member of the public is offended” adding that this must change if the United Kingdom is to maintain a free and democratic society.
“Freedom of speech means that each one of us needs to be able to critique all religions and ideas without immediately being labelled and silenced as offensive,” she said. “Critiquing ideas is often motivated by love for others and not hate. The result of this also chills free speech through self-censorship.”
While the compensatory payment is a good first step, Williams now wants to see “tangible action from the government, the police and the Mayor of London, offering assurances that Christian street preachers are free to preach the gospel within the law without fear of prosecution.”
We will keep you updated with any news following the petition being presented to the British Home Office.