Cheshire East

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CPS withdraws case against pastor fined for hosting service in car park during national lockdown

The Crown Prosecution Service has withdrawn a case against a Christian pastor who was fined £16,000 for holding a church service for the homeless during the third national lockdown.

Pastor Chez Dyer was told by a magistrate at a hearing at Nottingham Magistrates' Court last week that she would not have to pay the fine and was issued with a defence cost order, meaning her legal fees will now be paid by the government.

The pastor was issued with the fines in February 2021 for running her 'Church on the Streets' ministry in a Nottingham car park.

About 30 people would meet at the car park for a Christian service and food afterwards. The pastor said the congregation followed full social distancing measures.

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During a service on 27 February, two police officers arrived, suggesting there had been complaints from members of the public.

They left and later returned in a van that they parked in the entrance, blocking the exit.

The pastor was told the service was an 'illegal gathering'.

Proceedings were filed against her, and she was convicted in her absence. The pastor said she was unaware of the proceedings.

In her absence, the court issued a £16,000 fine (in addition to a £190 victim surcharge and £85 costs).

Before the latest hearing Christian Legal Centre lawyers indicated to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the court that they would be asking for the case to be reopened and submitted that the fine had been issued at 'the highest possible level' and was 'given to a church leader for essentially charitable actions.'

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, who backed Pastor Chez's case, said: "We are delighted that common sense has finally prevailed and that the huge fine will not have to be paid.

"We hope this story sends a clear message to the government and police of the vital role Christian ministry plays in our communities and how it must be protected, supported and encouraged at all times."

Adam Carey

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