Michael Overd trial, first day, 11 March 2015

I attended the whole of the first day of the Mike Overd trial today.  The trial’s morning proceedings were covered today by the Somerset County Gazette and the BBC.  The BBC Points West news programme ran only about 30 seconds on the Overd story this evening – in my view a sound editorial decision.
The Gazette article is seriously inaccurate as to the nature of the charges against Mr Overd; by contrast, the BBC article is accurate.
There were four journalists (of whom I was one) observing the trial in the morning; in the afternoon session (after 2 pm) I was alone.  I believe the BBC (and presumably the Gazette) journalists had the dilemma of having to cover another newsworthy trial running concurrently at the same court today (something to do with the RSPCA and dog cruelty I think).
People today: Judge Qureshi presiding; barrister Laura Searle for the CPS; solicitor Michael Phillips and barrister Paul Diamond for the defence; witness testimony from (1) Darren Chalmers, (2) Nigel James Marley, (3) Shelley Victoria Cunningham, (4) PC Breakwell and (5) the defendant, Michael John Overd, aged 50, of Taunton.
My understanding is that Mr Overd will continue giving his testimony tomorrow morning, and that the court will also hear the testimonies of Mrs Rachel Overd and Sergeant Neil Kimmins tomorrow.
Furthermore, my understanding is that Judge Qureshi does not intend to give his verdict tomorrow, but rather will give his [written] verdict at Bristol some time in the week commencing 23rd March.
Following are highlights from my notes of what was said in court today.
The trial commenced with legal discussion between the judge and the prosecution and defence counsel (10:00 – 10:37 hours).
During this discussion it emerged that at an earlier stage of the case management, the CPS originally intended to call no fewer than 13 prosecution witnesses.
(10:17) Michael Phillips said the police had “trawled” for witnesses.
He also said to Judge Qureshi, “There has been a lack of communication between the parties generally.”
Judge Qureshi said, “I do not know what’s going wrong with the CPS in this area [i.e. case management] …”
(10:35) Judge Qureshi said, “I wanted to have an earlier hearing on this.”
(10:37) Judge Qureshi said, “Put the CPS on notice for … not complying with case management.”
(10:31) Michael Phillips said, “Sergeant Kimmins has been the puppeteer.”
Paul Diamond spoke of “agent provocateurs” which “…undermine the right to a fair trial.”
Paul Diamond also spoke of “Advertisements in the local press … indicative of over zealous police activity.”
After the preliminary legal discussion and following on from her opening statement, prosecutor Laura Searle proceeded to call the prosecution’s witnesses.
(10:53) Darren Chalmers said, “I’m an openly gay Christian.”
Referring to his encounter with the defendant in Taunton on 7th June 2014 (about 2:20 pm), Darren Chalmers said, “I was intrigued… I wanted to listen to what was going on… All I got told was that I was a sinner and I needed to repent of my sins.”
During cross-examination by Michael Phillips, the following was said:
(11:01) Michael Phillips asked, “Basically you don’t believe in freedom of speech in the high street?”
Darren Chalmers replied, “No…”
(11:12) Darren Chalmers said, “I’m not a sinner and I don’t need to repent of my sins.”
(11:15) Michael Phillips asked, “Do you want him off the streets?”
Darren Chalmers replied, “Yes.”
(resume after short break, 11:38)
Responding to questions from Laura Searle, and referring to his encounter with the defendant in Taunton on 7th June 2014 (about 2 pm), Nigel Marley described the tone of the defendant’s preaching as “belligerent and angry” and said, “The nature of the comments were homophobic comments.”
Nigel Marley also said, “I’m all for free speech but not at the expense of belittling somebody and preaching hatred.”
(11:51) Nigel Marley said, “I can’t remember the specific words that were used.”
(11:57) Nigel Marley said, “I stopped to listen to what he was saying…”
(12:05) Cross-examining, Michael Phillips asked, “Your understanding of the Act [the Equality Act] is incorrect … would you agree with that?”
Nigel Marley replied, “I don’t know.”
(12:09) Shelley Cunningham commenced her testimony in regard of the defendant’s preaching in Taunton on the 17th July 2014 (from about 4 pm).
Laura Searle asked, “What did you hear?”
Shelley Cunningham said, “He was preaching about sins and Mohammed the prophet is a paedophile.  … Mohammed was a paedophile because his wife he was having sex with was nine years old.”
(12:16) Cross-examining, Michael Phillips asked, “You describe yourself as a committed Christian?”
Shelley Cunningham replied, “Yes.”
(12:20) Michael Phillips, “When you heard [the defendant preaching] that homosexuals were sinners, did that upset you personally?”
Shelley Cunningham replied, “Yes.”
During her testimony Shelley Cunningham told of how she had made  a recording of the defendant’s preaching and passed her recording on to the police.  However, this recording was not available to be played in court; Judge Qureshi said to prosecutor Laura Searle, “Here we are eight months later and it’s not ready.”
(12:46) During cross-examination of Shelley Cunningham, the defence played a video recording (made by the defendant) of the defendant’s preaching (on 17th July 2014) to Shelley Cunningham.
The video footage recorded the defendant as saying of Mohammed “He’s a liar and a deceiver” and, “He had a wife from the age of nine; in this country that’s paedophilia.”
(12:52) Cross-examining, Michael Phillips asked Shelley Cunningham about the defendant’s manner of preaching, “It’s not a threat is it?”
Shelley Cunningham replied, “No.”
Michael Phillips asked, “It’s not abuse is it?”
Shelley Cunningham replied, “No.”
(14:27) Cross-examining PC Breakwell, Paul Diamond asked, “You’re determined to silence Mr Overd, aren’t you?”
PC Breakwell replied, “No, not at all.”
(14:50) Defendant Michael Overd commenced giving testimony.
(14:59) Michael Phillips asked, “Would you say that you are obsessed with preaching against homosexuality?”
Michael Overd replied, “No.”
Michael Phillips asked, “Do you ever intend to be threatening?”
Michael Overd replied, “No.”
Michael Phillips asked, “Do you ever intend to be abusive?”
Michael Overd replied, “No.”
(15:13) Michael Phillips asked, “What is your hope for Mr Chalmers?”
Michael Overd replied, “That he comes to know the God who loves him.”
(15:15) Michael Phillips asked, “Why do you use a microphone?”
Michael Overd replied, “To save my voice.”
(15:16) Michael Phillips asked, “Are you intending to intimidate people by using the microphone?”
Michael Overd replied, “No.”
(15:57) Michael Overd said, “Hate’s not coming out of my heart.”
The trial continues on Thursday 12th March.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.