Christian street preacher who allegedly told gay couple they would 'burn in hell' in High Street rant is cleared of wrongdoing
- Michael Overd's lawyers said he was quoting from the bible's 1 Corinthians
Last updated at 6:25 PM on 10th February 2012
Michael Overd was accused of using threatening or abusive language as he preached last July
A Christian street preacher was yesterday cleared of harassing a gay couple - after telling them homosexuals would 'burn in hell'.
Religious Michael Overd, 47, was accused of using threatening or abusive language against Craig Manning and Craig Nichol as he preached last July.
A court heard that he approached the pair in busy Taunton High Street, Somerset, calling them ‘sinners’ and proclaiming they would ‘burn in hell’.
But Overd claimed he was merely exercising his right to expression by reading from the bible and was acquitted of the charge by Taunton Deane Magistrates yesterday.
Dean Lampard, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), speaking after the verdict, said: 'We take allegations of this nature very seriously and when we reviewed the case we determined it was appropriate to charge Mr Overd with harassment.
'We examined the evidence and were satisfied that there was a realistic prospect of conviction and that it was in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings.
'We respect the magistrates’ decision today.
'Everyone has the right to live their life free from harassment and distress and we will continue to work closely with Avon and Somerset Constabulary to investigate any allegations of hate crime of any sort, be it homophobic, racist, religious or disability hate crime.'
Taunton town centre where the two men claim they were intimidated by preacher Michael Overd in July last year
Overd, of Creech St Michael in Somerset, was charged last September in relation to alleged homophobic hate crime against a gay couple in Taunton.
Overd's lawyers claimed his client was merely reciting a passage from 1 Corinthians
The court heard claims the lay preacher was provoked by a previous altercation with Mr Nichol and Mr Manning in October 2010, when he saw them holding hands.
Mr Nichol, giving evidence at the two-day trial, said as soon as Overd saw them from around 10 metres away on July 16 last year 'the expression on his face changed'.
He said: 'He said ‘I have already told these two sinners over here that they are going to burn in hell’.
'He looked at us and pointed at us when he said it. His voice was quite loud and very clear. I felt angry, embarrassed and ashamed.
'I asked him who he was to judge me and he said ‘it’s God’s words, it is in the bible’.
'He said I should repent and ask God for forgiveness.'
Paul Diamond, representing Overd, claimed his client was merely reciting a passage from 1 Corinthians.
The passage reads: 'Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.'
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