Woolwich street preacher in Greenwich Council police threat

Josh Williamson - trying to spread the good news using something other than Greenwich Time

Josh Williamson - trying to spread the good news using something other than Greenwich Time

First published in Greenwich news
Last updated
News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , deputy news editor

CHRISTIAN campaigners are demanding an apology after a Woolwich street preacher was told to stop his Bible readings and threatened with police action.

Josh Williamson was spreading the good news in Powis Street on February 20, using a board equipped with an amplifier which played a reading of St John's Gospel.

But the baptist minister, who says proclaiming Jesus's teachings is his Christian duty, was soon approached by an enforcement officer from Greenwich Council and told to turn the volume down, before ordering him to switch it off completely.

The 27-year-old missionary, who recently moved to Woolwich from Australia, asked what volume would be acceptable and what by-law he was breaking - but the council officer would not tell him.

He said: "The issue seemed to be the message rather than the amplification.

"What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear?

"I asked her if the Bible was the issue and she said people didn't want to hear it.

"I don't know how the Christian message, which has been proclaimed in this country for hundreds of years can cause harm to people walking past."

As the dispute continued, Mr Williamson was told by the council employee to stop giving out leaflets and that she would get police to remove him and his fellow preacher from the town centre.

But when police did arrive on the scene, they took no action, and Mr Williamson was allowed to continue the Lord's work.

He said: "I must admit, the way in which they approached us in front of people and ordered us to stop was rather humiliating.

"Being someone who's involved in Christian ministry, reputation is everything."

Freedom of expression

The Woolwich Evangelical Church member has now contacted campaign group Christian Concern, which is writing to the council demanding an apology.

A spokesman for the group said: "Christians have rights of freedom of expression to tell people about the Lord Jesus in public forums. 

"This right is protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950). 

"We are aware of attempts - some intentional and some because public officials do not know the law - to prevent such preaching. 

"Often this is because of hostility to the message of the church and hostility to Christianity."

For details of Mr Williamson's mission, visit joshwilliamson.org

A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: “Following a number of complaints from individuals and businesses in the town centre about the level of noise being amplified into the street, Royal Borough wardens approached the speaker and politely requested that the volume be reduced.

“The request was appropriate, proportionate and in response to genuine complaints from town centre visitors.

"Wardens did not aim to offend the speaker, his beliefs or the content of his message, but merely sought to reduce the volume at which the message was being communicated.”

Comments (22)

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5:24pm Mon 25 Feb 13

simonwebb70 says...

Greenwich Council is known to be very left and as the vast majority of Woolwich are not from the UK these days they are probably doing the Aussie a favour and protecting him!
Greenwich Council is known to be very left and as the vast majority of Woolwich are not from the UK these days they are probably doing the Aussie a favour and protecting him! simonwebb70
  • Score: -1

7:24pm Mon 25 Feb 13

madras says...

it's the principle not the contend - if i had amp and speakers playing my choice in music in public i'd be surprised not to be asked to turn if off!
it's the principle not the contend - if i had amp and speakers playing my choice in music in public i'd be surprised not to be asked to turn if off! madras
  • Score: 0

7:45pm Mon 25 Feb 13

the wall says...

What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it.
What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it. the wall
  • Score: 0

10:06am Tue 26 Feb 13

CaptainJustice says...

And those that are from the Islamic faith are left alone?
And those that are from the Islamic faith are left alone? CaptainJustice
  • Score: -1

11:27am Tue 26 Feb 13

The Navigator says...

the wall wrote:
What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it.
How about we live in a society where we supposedly have 'freedom of speech?'

I seem to recall from reading your posts in respect of the Eltham mould story that these are principles that you appear to cherish.

It appears you are not consistent; this man was exercising his freedom of speech was he not!
[quote][p][bold]the wall[/bold] wrote: What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it.[/p][/quote]How about we live in a society where we supposedly have 'freedom of speech?' I seem to recall from reading your posts in respect of the Eltham mould story that these are principles that you appear to cherish. It appears you are not consistent; this man was exercising his freedom of speech was he not! The Navigator
  • Score: 0

11:28am Tue 26 Feb 13

The Navigator says...

Of course the exclamation mark at the end of my last comment should have been a question mark
Of course the exclamation mark at the end of my last comment should have been a question mark The Navigator
  • Score: 0

11:37am Tue 26 Feb 13

the wall says...

The Navigator wrote:
the wall wrote:
What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it.
How about we live in a society where we supposedly have 'freedom of speech?'

I seem to recall from reading your posts in respect of the Eltham mould story that these are principles that you appear to cherish.

It appears you are not consistent; this man was exercising his freedom of speech was he not!
Did you not read the church bit of my comment?

If I want god I go to church. If I want shoes I go to a shoe shop.

By using a PA he is forcing his beliefs on other people. People have no choice but to hear it.

You don't have to read my comments, but you have chosen to
.
[quote][p][bold]The Navigator[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]the wall[/bold] wrote: What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it.[/p][/quote]How about we live in a society where we supposedly have 'freedom of speech?' I seem to recall from reading your posts in respect of the Eltham mould story that these are principles that you appear to cherish. It appears you are not consistent; this man was exercising his freedom of speech was he not![/p][/quote]Did you not read the church bit of my comment? If I want god I go to church. If I want shoes I go to a shoe shop. By using a PA he is forcing his beliefs on other people. People have no choice but to hear it. You don't have to read my comments, but you have chosen to . the wall
  • Score: 0

11:39am Tue 26 Feb 13

Gypo.Joe says...

The Navigator wrote:
the wall wrote:
What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it.
How about we live in a society where we supposedly have 'freedom of speech?'

I seem to recall from reading your posts in respect of the Eltham mould story that these are principles that you appear to cherish.

It appears you are not consistent; this man was exercising his freedom of speech was he not!
Yea but he's an Aussie, bl00dy immigrants, no freedom of speech for them.
Wait until the cricket starts, lets see who he supports then.

;)
[quote][p][bold]The Navigator[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]the wall[/bold] wrote: What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear? ERRRMM What right do you have to force people to hear your beliefs? We have a building over here called a church, use it.[/p][/quote]How about we live in a society where we supposedly have 'freedom of speech?' I seem to recall from reading your posts in respect of the Eltham mould story that these are principles that you appear to cherish. It appears you are not consistent; this man was exercising his freedom of speech was he not![/p][/quote]Yea but he's an Aussie, bl00dy immigrants, no freedom of speech for them. Wait until the cricket starts, lets see who he supports then. ;) Gypo.Joe
  • Score: 0

11:58am Tue 26 Feb 13

The Navigator says...

The point i am making is that the right to free speech means he is entitled to express his views outside the confines of a church, granted the use of a p.a system may not have been the wisest move!
The point i am making is that the right to free speech means he is entitled to express his views outside the confines of a church, granted the use of a p.a system may not have been the wisest move! The Navigator
  • Score: 0

12:18pm Tue 26 Feb 13

the wall says...

The Navigator wrote:
The point i am making is that the right to free speech means he is entitled to express his views outside the confines of a church, granted the use of a p.a system may not have been the wisest move!
This type of self righteous preacher / minster do more damage than good to Christianity. Yes by all means express yourself. But don't get blinked by the BS of bring the good word to the people on the street crap.
It dosen't work.
[quote][p][bold]The Navigator[/bold] wrote: The point i am making is that the right to free speech means he is entitled to express his views outside the confines of a church, granted the use of a p.a system may not have been the wisest move![/p][/quote]This type of self righteous preacher / minster do more damage than good to Christianity. Yes by all means express yourself. But don't get blinked by the BS of bring the good word to the people on the street crap. It dosen't work. the wall
  • Score: 0

12:29pm Tue 26 Feb 13

Inspirationalady28 says...

Preaching in the street is lawful, even if it is contentious, unwelcome or provocative, and police officers may not ask preachers to be silent, according to a landmark ruling made in the Supreme Court in July 1999 as detailed here. This is the law of the land in England and Wales.
In the case of a threatened breach of the peace, the police must ask themselves where the threat is coming from. Disproportionate behaviour from a crowd will not allow a presumption that the preacher is responsible for the threat.
Street preachers wrongly arrested or convicted may be able to claim damages from the Crown Prosecutor or the Police.
Regarding the use of amplification, the holding of placards, and alleged obstruction when preaching or giving out tracts, the key test is reasonableness.
Many council bylaws and police instructions used against preachers may be unlawful, but will only be tested when someone is arrested and convicted and appeals to the High Court. ~ This is the Law of the Land!!
Preaching in the street is lawful, even if it is contentious, unwelcome or provocative, and police officers may not ask preachers to be silent, according to a landmark ruling made in the Supreme Court in July 1999 as detailed here. This is the law of the land in England and Wales. In the case of a threatened breach of the peace, the police must ask themselves where the threat is coming from. Disproportionate behaviour from a crowd will not allow a presumption that the preacher is responsible for the threat. Street preachers wrongly arrested or convicted may be able to claim damages from the Crown Prosecutor or the Police. Regarding the use of amplification, the holding of placards, and alleged obstruction when preaching or giving out tracts, the key test is reasonableness. Many council bylaws and police instructions used against preachers may be unlawful, but will only be tested when someone is arrested and convicted and appeals to the High Court. ~ This is the Law of the Land!! Inspirationalady28
  • Score: 0

6:40pm Tue 26 Feb 13

Finalcountdown1 says...

Inspiratinalady, The police didn't ask him to be silent, the council did due to there being amplified sound through a speaker in the high street. The article said the police took no action so where does it say he was threatened with arrest over breach of the peace by a police officer? It gets very loud on a Saturday with all the other preachers in Powis Street, this guy is quiet and inoffensive in comparison to those with the megaphones telling us we are all likely to go to hell. I'm not normally one to stick up for the old bill but comments like yours start causing them to be vilified unnecessarily in a job that's hard enough as it is.
Inspiratinalady, The police didn't ask him to be silent, the council did due to there being amplified sound through a speaker in the high street. The article said the police took no action so where does it say he was threatened with arrest over breach of the peace by a police officer? It gets very loud on a Saturday with all the other preachers in Powis Street, this guy is quiet and inoffensive in comparison to those with the megaphones telling us we are all likely to go to hell. I'm not normally one to stick up for the old bill but comments like yours start causing them to be vilified unnecessarily in a job that's hard enough as it is. Finalcountdown1
  • Score: 0

7:18pm Tue 26 Feb 13

banjo8 says...

Yes there's a right to free speech, so he should be allowed to preach in the street. But, I think it's right not to allow amplifiers.
As far as spreading the word of God I think he should keep his beliefs to himself and not force them on others.
A belief is a beautiful thing, but religion is a dirty word - there are more problems in the world caused by religion than anything else.
Yes there's a right to free speech, so he should be allowed to preach in the street. But, I think it's right not to allow amplifiers. As far as spreading the word of God I think he should keep his beliefs to himself and not force them on others. A belief is a beautiful thing, but religion is a dirty word - there are more problems in the world caused by religion than anything else. banjo8
  • Score: 0

10:50pm Tue 26 Feb 13

Inspirationalady28 says...

Finalcountdown1 wrote:
Inspiratinalady, The police didn't ask him to be silent, the council did due to there being amplified sound through a speaker in the high street. The article said the police took no action so where does it say he was threatened with arrest over breach of the peace by a police officer? It gets very loud on a Saturday with all the other preachers in Powis Street, this guy is quiet and inoffensive in comparison to those with the megaphones telling us we are all likely to go to hell. I'm not normally one to stick up for the old bill but comments like yours start causing them to be vilified unnecessarily in a job that's hard enough as it is.
I never said anything only what I've read on the subject..maybe you should read it too before accusing me like it's my own personal opinion!?


 
THE LEGALITY OF STREET SPEAKING
 
The following document arrived on our desk from Stephen Green of
Christian Voice, PO Box 739A, Surbiton, Surrey  KT6 5YA
(web : christianvo
ice.org.uk    e-
mail : info@christ
ianvoice.org.uk)
It examines the legality of street preaching, yet is applicable for all activists, including those who find themselves speaking politically at hustings, or in the street. It is reprinted with permission and slightly abridged from Christian Voice, Dec 2002. It is the law in England and Wales, but the same general principles apply in Scotland.

This article was published in the January 2003 issue of Sovereignty.

SUMMARY
Preaching in the street is lawful, even if it is contentious, unwelcome or provocative, and police officers may not ask preachers to be silent, according to a landmark ruling made in the Supreme Court in July 1999 as detailed here. This is the law of the land in England and Wales.
In the case of a threatened breach of the peace, the police must ask themselves where the threat is coming from. Disproportionate behaviour from a crowd will not allow a presumption that the preacher is responsible for the threat.
Street preachers wrongly arrested or convicted may be able to claim damages from the Crown Prosecutor or the Police.
Regarding the use of amplification, the holding of placards, and alleged obstruction when preaching or giving out tracts, the key test is reasonableness.

Many council bylaws and police instructions used against preachers may be unlawful, but will only be tested when someone is arrested and convicted and appeals to the High Court.
[quote][p][bold]Finalcountdown1[/bold] wrote: Inspiratinalady, The police didn't ask him to be silent, the council did due to there being amplified sound through a speaker in the high street. The article said the police took no action so where does it say he was threatened with arrest over breach of the peace by a police officer? It gets very loud on a Saturday with all the other preachers in Powis Street, this guy is quiet and inoffensive in comparison to those with the megaphones telling us we are all likely to go to hell. I'm not normally one to stick up for the old bill but comments like yours start causing them to be vilified unnecessarily in a job that's hard enough as it is.[/p][/quote]I never said anything only what I've read on the subject..maybe you should read it too before accusing me like it's my own personal opinion!?   THE LEGALITY OF STREET SPEAKING   The following document arrived on our desk from Stephen Green of Christian Voice, PO Box 739A, Surbiton, Surrey  KT6 5YA (web : christianvo ice.org.uk    e- mail : info@christ ianvoice.org.uk) It examines the legality of street preaching, yet is applicable for all activists, including those who find themselves speaking politically at hustings, or in the street. It is reprinted with permission and slightly abridged from Christian Voice, Dec 2002. It is the law in England and Wales, but the same general principles apply in Scotland. This article was published in the January 2003 issue of Sovereignty. SUMMARY Preaching in the street is lawful, even if it is contentious, unwelcome or provocative, and police officers may not ask preachers to be silent, according to a landmark ruling made in the Supreme Court in July 1999 as detailed here. This is the law of the land in England and Wales. In the case of a threatened breach of the peace, the police must ask themselves where the threat is coming from. Disproportionate behaviour from a crowd will not allow a presumption that the preacher is responsible for the threat. Street preachers wrongly arrested or convicted may be able to claim damages from the Crown Prosecutor or the Police. Regarding the use of amplification, the holding of placards, and alleged obstruction when preaching or giving out tracts, the key test is reasonableness. Many council bylaws and police instructions used against preachers may be unlawful, but will only be tested when someone is arrested and convicted and appeals to the High Court. Inspirationalady28
  • Score: 0

8:28am Wed 27 Feb 13

Finalcountdown1 says...

Perhaps you should have read the article properly before researching a subject for which the content wasn't actually relevant. Researching council by laws on amplified sound in the high street would have been a bit better.
Perhaps you should have read the article properly before researching a subject for which the content wasn't actually relevant. Researching council by laws on amplified sound in the high street would have been a bit better. Finalcountdown1
  • Score: 0

11:34am Wed 27 Feb 13

the wall says...

Finalcountdown1 wrote:
Perhaps you should have read the article properly before researching a subject for which the content wasn't actually relevant. Researching council by laws on amplified sound in the high street would have been a bit better.
This ^

Well said.
[quote][p][bold]Finalcountdown1[/bold] wrote: Perhaps you should have read the article properly before researching a subject for which the content wasn't actually relevant. Researching council by laws on amplified sound in the high street would have been a bit better.[/p][/quote]This ^ Well said. the wall
  • Score: 0

3:37pm Wed 27 Feb 13

Inspirationalady28 says...

It wasn't to do with just the amplified sound though was it? You know it, I know it..so they had to use that as an excuse to get him off that street!!
It wasn't to do with just the amplified sound though was it? You know it, I know it..so they had to use that as an excuse to get him off that street!! Inspirationalady28
  • Score: 0

7:20pm Thu 28 Feb 13

banjo8 says...

Hasn't he got the son of God's name on his placard the wrong way round?
Hasn't he got the son of God's name on his placard the wrong way round? banjo8
  • Score: 0

10:06pm Thu 28 Feb 13

chappy149 says...

OK, here is a scenario for the bible bashers. If I started preaching about a magical fairy who created the world and I believed this because I read it in a book which has been bastardised for centuries would you A. happily listen and greet my ramblings with hugs and love or B. Call the local hospital and have me sectioned. B would be the appropriate answer here, so why should normal law abiding respectful people have to listen to a jumped up preacher talk complete and utter garbage. Keep your religion in the church, I will keep my logic and science in the laboratories and hospitals where we save lives and don't condemn people to hell. Before the freedom of speech gang jump in, if this guy was preaching the word of extremist Islam you would be asking for B also so leave leave the PC Lefty guff out of this. http://www.richardda
wkins.net to the bible folk, have a read.
OK, here is a scenario for the bible bashers. If I started preaching about a magical fairy who created the world and I believed this because I read it in a book which has been bastardised for centuries would you A. happily listen and greet my ramblings with hugs and love or B. Call the local hospital and have me sectioned. B would be the appropriate answer here, so why should normal law abiding respectful people have to listen to a jumped up preacher talk complete and utter garbage. Keep your religion in the church, I will keep my logic and science in the laboratories and hospitals where we save lives and don't condemn people to hell. Before the freedom of speech gang jump in, if this guy was preaching the word of extremist Islam you would be asking for B also so leave leave the PC Lefty guff out of this. http://www.richardda wkins.net to the bible folk, have a read. chappy149
  • Score: 0

4:48pm Fri 1 Mar 13

banjo8 says...

It is a tricky one though, as you say he's obviously entitled to his view and his right to free speech, whatever we might think about the subject matter.
Despite what inspirational lady thinks about the motives, I reckon the only thing that damns him is the use of the amp.
It is a tricky one though, as you say he's obviously entitled to his view and his right to free speech, whatever we might think about the subject matter. Despite what inspirational lady thinks about the motives, I reckon the only thing that damns him is the use of the amp. banjo8
  • Score: 0

8:32am Sat 2 Mar 13

Inspirationalady28 says...

But he was also told to stop giving out leaflets by the council employee too? So when the police arrived, no action was taken against him and he was allowed to continue..that was because he wasn't doing anything unlawful like I explained before. The councils can go on making up as many ridiculous bylaws as they like but not many would actually stand up in a court of law!
But he was also told to stop giving out leaflets by the council employee too? So when the police arrived, no action was taken against him and he was allowed to continue..that was because he wasn't doing anything unlawful like I explained before. The councils can go on making up as many ridiculous bylaws as they like but not many would actually stand up in a court of law! Inspirationalady28
  • Score: 0

2:15pm Mon 4 Mar 13

Rev. Sue Scottley says...

Activists should be allowed to speak in the street - be they speaking for religion, social justice, science, fairies or whatever. It's a long tradition and one we should be grateful for.

The loudness of the amplification should be considered though, and this chap seemed happy to lower it to an acceptable level if he was told what that was. So what was the problem?

Any sensible person can tell the difference between proselytizing and hate speech, which we've rightly got laws to prevent. Pity there's not more sensible people working for the Council.
Activists should be allowed to speak in the street - be they speaking for religion, social justice, science, fairies or whatever. It's a long tradition and one we should be grateful for. The loudness of the amplification should be considered though, and this chap seemed happy to lower it to an acceptable level if he was told what that was. So what was the problem? Any sensible person can tell the difference between proselytizing and hate speech, which we've rightly got laws to prevent. Pity there's not more sensible people working for the Council. Rev. Sue Scottley
  • Score: 0

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