Abuse shouting worshipper walks free from court


A devout church worshipper who disrupted services by accusing parishioners of having affairs has been bound over to keep the peace.

Rowdy Jean Gardner-Cato, 51, repeatedly shouted and interrupted proceedings over a four month period at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Horfield, Bristol.

She was charged under the rarely-used Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 and told she could be jailed for up to two years.

But the prosecution dropped the charge and magistrates ordered her to sign a contract promising not disrupt future services – but did not ban her from attending the church.

Jill MacNamara, prosecuting at Bristol Magistrate’s Court, said: ”On February 13 church elders asked police to come as she was interrupting services.

”There was no wish of ill-will or for a criminal conviction, but to ensure that when everyone goes to what should be a joyous occasion there aren’t problems on any side.”

Mother-of-eight Gardner-Cato, who has attended the church since she was a teenager, claims she has been blessed with a gift which allows her to reveal ”prophecies from God”.

But fellow parishioners became concerned when some of these revelations included accusing people of having affairs and sleeping with one-another.

They called the police and two uniformed officers arrested her the church foyer in February and charged under the obscure Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act.

That charge, which included making a nuisance between October 10, 2009 and February 13 this year, was later dropped.

She was due to face trial on Wednesday but, after an agreement between prosecution and defence solicitors, was bound over to keep the peace for 12 months or face a #100 fine.

Kevin Withey, mitigating, said: ”She has worshipped at the church since she was a teenager and would wish to continue doing so.

”She does not accept totally the witness statements, but accepts that on the day in question that, as a result of a misunderstanding, and her worshipping in a slightly different way to others, a disturbance was caused.”

Speaking after Wednesday’s hearing, she said: ”I feel as though I have been criminalised because of my faith.

”I have a gift of prophecy where God would reveal to me certain things were taking place.

”I did not accuse anyone, it was a warning, a prophecy from God. I had no intention of saying that – I felt a power come down on me.

”The law should be abolished as it is outdated and unfair and this will not stop me going expressing my faith at the church.”

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is a Millennialist Protestant Christian denomination that was founded in the 1860s in the USA.

Adventists celebrate the Sabbath and worship on a Saturday when they are expected to abstain from watching sport or non-religious television programmes.

They live modest lives, with a strict code of ethics, which involves abstaining from alcohol and tobacco and recommend a vegetarian diet.

Meat is permitted, but only following Biblical commandments on clean and unclean food.

Missionary work is very important to the church and all Adventists believe they have a duty to share their beliefs with others.

There are nearly 25,000 Seventh-Day Adventists in the UK with around 14 million Seventh-Day Adventists worldwide, all of whom believe that Jesus Christ will soon return to Earth.


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