Michael Overd trial, second day, 12 March 2015


The final day of the Mike Overd trial concluded at 16:56 hours today.
His Honour Judge Qureshi adjourned the case until 10 am on Monday 23rd March at Bristol Crown Court, at which time he will give his verdict.
A few brief notes on today…
(16:55) Regarding case management, Judge Qureshi said, “This is not a rushed trial, four-and-a-half months to prepare…”
This followed on from an apology given (16:53) by prosecuting barrister Laura Searle, “I apologise on behalf of the CPS to the defence and the court.”
The court heard witness testimony today from the defendant Michael Overd, from his wife, Mrs Rachel Overd and from Sergeant Neil Kimmins.  Prosecution and defence counsel then proceeded to give their summing up statements.
And a few comments from me…
One of the lawyers asked a question of a witness which caused near uproar, in the funny-ridiculous sense.  It was one of those ‘laughed out of court’ moments.  We all have the capacity occasionally to say things in public which are so silly that it beggars belief, but few of us will ever experience the embarrassment of doing so as a lawyer in the middle of cross-examination with peers, press and public looking on.  I was tempted, momentarily, to give the details of this anecdote on this blog, but, to be fair – and I must be fair – since the lawyer immediately withdrew the question, I feel it must remain a gentleman’s secret.
That said, the gaffe was not out of place in what was an emotionally charged day which saw participants manifesting a broad range of emotions – though hate was not amongst them.  Courtesy, kindness and passion, laughter, confusion and mischief were punctuated by profound moments in which defendant and others spoke striking, noble, awe-inspiring words about faith and freedom.
The lawyers were excellent – a credit to their profession.
In particular, during summing up, Paul Diamond gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard [or will ever hear] about freedom of speech.  (Oh that it could’ve been filmed for posterity.)
I will never know exactly what barrister Laura Searle actually thought to herself about this prosecution – though I suspect – but I do know that she acquitted herself well during this trial.
Interestingly, after the trial proceedings were closed, just before 5 o’ clock, defendant and prosecutor shook hands and exchanged smiles – yet another indication that it had been no ordinary trial.
And why was that?  It was no ordinary trial because it centred around an exceptional defendant and his views on Mohammed and Jesus.
Given the way the Mike Overd case has been and will continue to be reported in mainstream media, you could be forgiven for thinking that Mike Overd spends all his preaching time banging on about Mohammed and homosexuals.  But this is the result of a gross misrepresentation of the man and his message; as a journalist and, I hope, a man of integrity, justice demands the truth to be told.  Having spent the last two days in a courtroom with Mike Overd and having heard the evidence about his preaching content and style, honour obliges me to testify that this man is no hate preacher.
On the contrary, Mike Overd preaches the full gospel of Jesus out of no other discernible motive than love, inspired by a strong sense of divine calling to evangelism.
Regarding ‘the meat’ of this prosecution, namely the religiously aggravated charge, the prosecution of Mike Overd rests primarily on the central assertion that he has committed a ‘religiously aggravated hate crime’ simply by publicly expressing his sincerely held belief that Mohammed was a paedophile – but Mohammed isn’t the main message of Mike Overd.
His Honour Judge Qureshi must decide whether or not it is lawful in England publicly to express the view that Mohammed was a paedophile.  It’s a controversial opinion, and it’s offensive to many – but is it a crime simply to say so?  As Paul Diamond said (16:34) at the end of the trial, “If we can’t make offensive statements we ain’t got free speech!”
To focus upon Mohammed is to completely miss the motive and the message of Mike Overd.
Mike Overd spends most of his time talking about Jesus; his motive is love, and his manner is courageous.
As a journalist, I can’t ‘sign off’ on reporting this case whilst leaving anybody under the impression that Mike Overd spends most of his time going around preaching the paedophilia of Mohammed, or fulminating against sodomy.  To do so would be tantamount to a lie.
Mike Overd’s message and his passion is simply this: Jesus and what the Bible says.
Mike Overd wants to tell anybody and everybody that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
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