Police allow 30-person baptism to go ahead despite Covid rule breach

15 November 2020, 17:12 | Updated: 15 November 2020, 19:10

Pastor King said he decided to hold the service "because I believe we serve a greater good".
Pastor King said he decided to hold the service "because I believe we serve a greater good". Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

The Met Police sent two police vans and a police car to a 30-person north London baptism, but allowed the service to go ahead despite it breaching coronavirus rules.

Police arrived at The Angel Church on Sunday where pastor Regan King, 28, was holding a baptism in defiance of lockdown restrictions.

While police halted the service and blocked more people from entering the church, they allowed 15 people to remain inside the church, while at least 15 took part in an outdoor service.

This is despite baptisms and other organised worship events being banned under the current national lockdown restrictions in England.

Churches can still hold funerals, broadcast acts of worship and facilitate individual prayer.

Read more: Church leaders launch legal challenge against English and Welsh public worship bans

Read more: Moment police break up illegal church service in Cardiff under Wales lockdown

Pastor King said he decided to hold the service "because I believe we serve a greater good".
Pastor King said he decided to hold the service "because I believe we serve a greater good". Picture: PA

A Met spokesman said officers spoke with the pastor following reports he intended to hold a "baptism and an in-person service".

The spokesman said: "Officers explained that due to Covid-19, restrictions are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are breached.

"After a discussion, the pastor agreed to hold a brief socially distanced outdoor gathering in the church courtyard."

The church had announced their intention to hold the baptism two weeks earlier in a post on Facebook.

The Metropolitan Police sent two police vans and a police car to the north London church.
The Metropolitan Police sent two police vans and a police car to the north London church. Picture: PA

Pastor King said he decided to hold the service "because I believe we serve a greater good. We have a greater good than whatever this is."

Referring to the police presence, Mr King said: "This is not something I ever wanted.

"This is an essential service that we provide. It's about loving our neighbour, and you can talk with a number of people here who are extremely vulnerable, homeless or on the verge of being very isolated."

When asked by LBC why the gathering was allowed to go ahead, a Met Police spokesperson said: "Officers explained that due to Covid-19, regulations are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are beached.

"Officers explained and encouraged everyone to comply with the regulations. A brief socially distanced gathering was held outside.

"This lasted approximately 10 minutes and following the service those in attendance dispersed without the need for enforcement action.

"A support group for vulnerable adults was permitted to proceed as normal inside the building as it was in line with the relevant legislation.

"Officers will continue to adopt a four phase approach to dealing with Covid regulations – ensuring they engage, explain and encourage before moving to enforcement."

The police decision to allow the baptism to go ahead comes after a London gym owner was finally forced to close his business on Wednesday, after police blocked customers from entering.

Read more: London gym owner tells of police blockade after he refused to close in lockdown

Andreas Michli, 34, is facing a £67,000 fine from his local council after refusing to shut during the second lockdown.

Mr Michli previously said he would remain open until a court orders him to shut as he is convinced he is "doing the right thing".