A TAUNTON street preacher could be jailed if he uses an amplifier to relay the Christian message to passers by.

Mike Overd, 56, has also be warned he could face prison if he uses the term 'murderer' outside an abortion clinic.

Mr Overd's team thrashed out an agreement with Avon and Somerset Police, who had gone to court in a bid to enforce a six-point injunction against him.

Police dropped four of the demands contained in an interim injunction issued in July.

Following a hearing at the High Court sitting at Bristol Magistrates' Court, the force's anti-social behaviour co-ordinator Cerwyn Pritchard said police in Taunton sought the restrictions following numerous complaints that Mr Overd’s words and actions were causing harassment, alarm and distress to people and disrupting businesses.

He added: "We originally outlined six conditions to the court which we felt would address the concerns raised.

"Noting several days would need to be set aside for all the evidence to be heard, the judge agreed to impose two of the conditions as part of an interim order made in July.

"Since that interim order was granted the number of complaints relating to Mr Overd have fallen dramatically and so when we returned to court yesterday for the full hearing we agreed terms with Mr Overd’s legal team that it was no longer necessary to seek the other conditions.

"Should we feel additional conditions are required in the future then the option remains for us to return to court to seek their implementation."

Under the order, Mr Overd is banned until July 2022 from using any amplification device such as a megaphone or microphone when preaching the Bible or playing copies of pre-recording message in public spaces in Somerset and Bristol; he is also barred from using the term 'murderer' within 80 yards of the Millstream House abortion clinic in Taunton.

Somerset Commander Superintendent Mike Prior said: “We have an aspiration to be the most inclusive police force in England and Wales and always respect an individual’s rights to freedom of speech, expression, thought, belief and religion and of peaceful protest.

“However, these must be balanced with the general public being able to go about their lawful daily business without feeling alarmed or distressed.

“It’s clear from the volume of complaints we’ve received during the past few years that Michael Overd’s actions and words have adversely affected the lives of many members of the public.

“We’ve looked to address the concerns raised about Mr Overd’s preaching while at the same time taking into account his right to freedom of speech.

“The application heard on Monday was not opposed and the High Court has found that it was just to extend the interim injunction prohibiting Mr Overd from amplifying his messaging and from using the term ‘murderer’ outside a named abortion clinic in Taunton.

“We firmly believe the injunction will help address the concerns raised.”

If he breaches the revised injunction, Mr Overd will be held in contempt of court and jailed or fined.

Responding to the ruling, Mr Overd said: “It is sad that the injunction was brought against me in the first place, but I am pleased that the police having considered the evidence that we put forward and arguments raised by my lawyers, recognised that so many of the restrictions that they had initially asked for, were completely unnecessary.

“I have faced nearly constant harassment by the authorities for preaching for nearly 10 years.

"Everything has been tried by the police to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for me to preach.

“This is the second time the police have brought an application for an injunction against me, and they are running out of options.

"I never called anyone a murderer, so I was happy to agree not to do this.

"I am happy not to use an amp, because I have a pretty loud voice and I appreciate that not everyone wants to hear the message.

“It is very concerning that the police see Christian preachers as a problem, even an enemy, when I and other preachers like me are just saying what the Bible says.”

The Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr Overd, welcomed the ruling but says the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 is being increasingly used by police to suppress legitimate freedom of speech.

The four points of the injunction dropped by the police would have barred him from using a soap box to preach from an elevated position; using visual aids and placards with words such as 'repent', 'abortion is murder' or tow show images of the reality of abortion; preaching in a single town or parish for more than 20 minutes a day; and breaching the peace through any words or actions in a public space.

The application claimed that Mr Overd “engages or threatens to engage” in anti-social behaviour and that his preaching “threatens violence” and could cause “significant risk or harm” to others.

Since 2011, Mr Overd has been prosecuted five times and arrested four times by Avon and Somerset Police. Each time he has walked away from court without a conviction.

He has also been interviewed on a voluntary basis, outside of arrest, on three separate occasions and has been issued with four Section 35 dispersal orders.

Mr Overd now says he is going to bring a claim in December against the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police for harassment, false imprisonment, assault, malicious prosecution and infringement of his rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “As Christians, we love and value the work that the police do in Avon and Somerset and around the country.

“However, the police have been given tremendous power that must be exercised responsibly and within the law.

“What we have found at the Christian Legal Centre is that police around the country often believe that if someone is offended by a message that they don’t agree with, a crime must have been committed.

“This simply is not the case and has led to many false arrests and prosecutions.

"It has to be accepted that Mike’s messages can be hard-hitting, but it is not the place of the state to police his message.

“We welcome today’s ruling, but Mike’s case shows that unless we stand up for the preachers, there is a real risk that eventually they will come for the ‘moderate’ Christians; the pastors who preach and the everyday Christians who talk to their friends about controversial subjects.”