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Police apologise after officers wrongly bust online church service

Police have apologised after a pastor was accused of breaking coronavirus regulations while holding a religious service online.

The Rev Daniel Mateola said he was “treated like a criminal” when officers arrived at Kingdom Faith Ministries International church in Milton Keynes earlier this month.

Thames Valley police said there had been a “misunderstanding” by officers in “what is an ever-changing and complex area of enforcement”.

Two officers attended after reports of loud music, said Christian Concern – a nonprofit evangelical organisation.

The officers demanded that support staff for the service leave the building, telling them they were breaking regulations.

But when the pastor insisted they were acting within the rules and tried to direct the police to the guidance, seven more officers were called to the scene, the organisation said.

There were about 15 people in the building, each with a specific role for the online broadcast on the evening of 20 November and in separate rooms, socially distanced from each other, Christian Concern said.

The support staff eventually left and the service ended after “an hour of disruption”, the organisation added.

During England’s second national lockdown – which is due to end on 2 December – communal worship is not allowed but support staff including musicians and singers can attend a place of worship for a broadcast service if they are considered “essential”.

The guidance says the numbers involved “should be kept as small as possible” and people should follow social distancing rules.

A few days later, on 24 November, officers arrived at Mateola’s home and told him he would be prosecuted for breaking Covid-19 regulations, Christian Concern said.

In a statement released through the organisation, he said: “I am relieved that the police have recognised their mistake and have apologised.

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