A preacher has been awarded £50 damages and £1,200 in legal costs by Dorset Police after an officer forcibly removed him from a van while he sang Amazing Grace to a crowd amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Dorset Police did not admit liability after Dominic Muir, 44, said a police officer ‘aggressively’ mounted his van and grabbed his wrist so hard it was ‘painful’, but instead offered him £50 to stop a legal action.
Mr Muir said he was ‘humiliated’, ‘intimidated’, and made to feel like a ‘criminal’ after the altercation in Blandford, Dorset, on April 22.
He threatened to sue, leading to Dorset Police offering a pay-out and covering his legal costs ‘as is standard practice when claims are settled in this manner’.
Dorset Police did not admit liability after Dominic Muir, 44, said a police officer ‘aggressively’ mounted his van (pictured) and grabbed his wrist so hard it was ‘painful’, but instead offered him £50 to stop a legal action
Mr Muir said: ‘I couldn’t believe it, there I was out bringing the message of the gospel, the message of hope, people were listening and a police man came and put a stop to what I was doing.
‘Suddenly, out of nowhere gets on the back of my vehicle, grabs my arm strongly.’
Video footage showed Mr Muir – who runs Christian charities Now Believe and Jesus Fields – standing on the back of a truck and singing through a microphone, clutching his bible.
An officer approached him and said: ‘I’m going to have to ask you to move on.’
But Dominic said: ‘I don’t have to move on, I have done this all over the county, I have done this all over the county.’
The officer decided to allow Mr Muir a few more minutes to wrap up.
Video footage showed Mr Muir – who runs Christian charities Now Believe and Jesus Fields – standing on the back of a truck and singing through a microphone, clutching his bible
Just minutes later, Mr Muir claimed the officer ‘aggressively’ mounted his van and grabbed his wrist so hard it was ‘painful’, forcing him to stop.
Mr Muir threatened legal action against the police force, arguing he didn’t breach Covid-19 guidelines while preaching.
He said: ‘It was humiliating. It was intimidating. It was shocking. I felt like a criminal. And the whole outreach, the message of salvation, was totally halted.
‘The reason why this case matters so much is right now we are in the middle of a pandemic where people are committing sucide, there’s mass depression, domestic violence, people are losing their jobs.
‘I have no doubt that if I had continued to preach or sing, I would have been handcuffed, arrested and taken to the police station.’
He said he had always taken social distancing seriously, but had ‘a legitimate job to do’, adding: ‘For centuries, street preaching in the UK was an honoured profession that was respected and deemed essential to people’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Mr Muir (pictured) threatened legal action against the police force, arguing he didn’t breach Covid-19 guidelines while preaching.
‘To be shut down by the police like this represented a huge shift for me and shows the extent of society’s secularisation.
‘My hope going forward is that there would be a respect accorded to Christian ministers and charities that seek to bring hope to those in desperate situations whose greatest need is their spiritual need.’
A Dorset Police spokesman said officers were called to a breach of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and found Mr Muir had caused a crowd to form.
They said: ‘Officers were called to Market Place in Blandford at 12.58pm on Wednesday, April 22, to reports of a COVID-19 breach as part of the lockdown restrictions that were in place at the time.
‘When they arrived they discovered that the complainant was preaching in the area in question, which was considered by the Force as a breach of the Government’s COVID-19 legislation.
‘His conduct was attracting other people to the scene, which was creating a gathering – something we considered also breached the rules in place.’
They said there was a ‘significant risk to the public health at the time’ because of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘The officer tried to engage with the complainant and encourage him to stop,’ they added. ‘However, he failed to cooperate so the officer used reasonable force to remove him from the truck.
‘The complainant then left the scene voluntarily. In total, any detention by the officer in question lasted less than a minute.
‘We can confirm that while liability in relation to an alleged assault by an officer was denied, a without prejudice offer of £50 was made to the complainant and accepted.
‘The Force also agreed to £1,200 in legal costs to the complainant’s legal representative, as is standard practice when claims are settled in this manner.’