A Christian pastor who faced a £16,000 fine for holding a church service for homeless people in a pub car park during lockdown has today blasted police for treating her ‘like a criminal’ after prosecutors dropped the case.
Chizumie Dyer (47), organized events for street worship in Nottingham during the third Lockdown of the UK. However, the government allowed religious places to be open.
But Ms Dyer was charged with breaking Covid-19 laws on gatherings after holding one service outside the Top House pub on February 20, and another one week later on February 27 in a car park two miles away owned by a business centre but used with permission by the New Generation Church, for which she paid £144 for the day.
At the second event, Nottinghamshire Police officers allegedly arrived in a riot van to block the entrance, shut it down and fine Ms Dyer in what they described as a ‘last resort’ after the site was not deemed a place of worship.
Ms Dyer was then taken to Nottingham Magistrates’ Court for holding a gathering of more than 30 people without a reasonable excuse, convicted in her absence and fined £16,000 plus costs – but said she would refuse to pay.
She appeared in court yesterday to learn that her February 20th fine for the use of a pub car park was withdrawn and the formal proceedings regarding February 27 were dropped.
Geoffrey Evans, Magistrates and Kevan Boot both confirmed that the charges had been dropped. However, no explanation was given by the prosecution. MailOnline reached out to the Crown Prosecution Service and police for clarification. The Defence Cost Order issued to Ms Dyer means that the Government will pay her legal fees.
Chizumie ‘Chez’ Dyer, 47 organized street events for the Top House pub in Nottingham during February of this year
Nottinghamshire Police arrived with a riot van and blocked the entry to the car park. This event was closed in February
Worshippers were invited to a parking lot for the church service, then they were fed outside.
Police said that Ms. Dyer’s fine was the ‘last resort enforcement’ as it was because of her inability to deem the area a place for worship.
After arriving on the scene officers ordered guests and worshippers to vacate the Nottingham parking lot.
Ms Dyer stated that she and her ministry staff were helping homeless people in crisis. The services were attended by around 30 people, who would listen to music, hear a sermon, and get hot food.
She was referred to as “Church On The Streets” in Bulwell, which lies in Nottingham North. This region is ranked among the top ten most deserving regions of the UK by the Government.
Her team was following Government guidelines, she insisted. She believed that they were operating within the rules because they were distributing food for the hungry and homeless.
Today, Ms Dyer stated that she was relieved to hear the verdict and see justice finally being done. Our support was there for those most in need when no one else could. People needed us urgently, while others said that they had stopped them from taking their own lives.
“We were spiritual doctors, who weren’t on furlough. We were needed by people who were in pain. Even in the hardest of circumstances, people can be reached with the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is exactly what the church should do.
“For doing this, however I was treated as a criminal. As a small church, we are not able to pay such large fines for aiding the homeless. My story will hopefully show the importance of Christian street ministry in this country.
Their service was held from noon to four o’clock in the afternoon on February 27th. Two police officers were present at her service, according to her legal team.
They were later said to have returned in a large police riot van, which blocked the entrance of the car park and prevented anyone from leaving. Her lawyers said that the police returned to their station in a large riot van with cops, blocking the entry to the parking garage. Nobody was permitted to exit.
According to police, Ms Dyer claimed they were serving homeless people and that the guidelines had been followed. However, the commanding sergeant stated that his superiors had declared it illegal and she was fined.
Lawyers from the Christian Legal Centre informed the CPS in correspondence that they were going to ask for the case’s reopening. They stated that the fine was issued at the ‘highest level possible’ and that it had been given to a leader of a Christian church for charitable acts.
Andrea Williams, the chief executive officer of Christian Legal Centre said that they were pleased that good sense prevailed, and that no huge fine would be imposed. The lockdown was a time when the Christian ministry had been supporting their most vulnerable community members materially, emotionally, and spiritually. It was ironic that the police chased them down in riot vans.
“It’s state overreach for Churches to be shut down and their ministries. When they are the last hope, it is often an act of desperation.
Pastor Chez Dryer claimed the Top House pub parking lot in Nottingham was a legal space for worship.
In February, officers from police were dispatched to an outdoor service after being contacted by members of the public.
Event organizer said that the services provided support to people living in the area and food for the hungry.
“We hope that this story will send a clear message about the important role Christian ministry has in our communities, and how it should be supported, protected and encouraged at every time.
James Walker, Inspector of Nottinghamshire Police, stated that the service had been shut down on February 2.
“Initially, we engaged, explained, and encouraged about the importance to follow the current national lockdown restraints, which are to protect the NHS and save lives, and to keep people safe.
“This is our initial approach during the coronavirus epidemic and we will keep it that way.”
“Over the past week, we made clear that such events were not permitted. We have also clarified that while we support religious groups in our communities and have been open to discussing them, certain rules must be followed to ensure safety.
“Whilst you are allowed to attend worship places, the car park in question is not one. Despite warnings over the past week, the event went on. Today, we took the final resort and enforced the law.
According to the guidelines of the second lockdown, the term “place of worship” was defined as any building that is used regularly for religious ceremonies, communal worship, or other similar gatherings.
It also included the use surrounding areas, such as adjacent carparks and courtyards or gardens. These are all responsibilities of the venue managers.
According to the guidance, premises used for religious gatherings could be included as a “place of worship” even though that is not their main purpose.
Not covered: Public parks and educational establishments, private houses, cultural sites, or any other open space, like woodlands.