London police disperse Good Friday church service with threats of fines and prison

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By Mark Armstrong  with AP
A police officer asks worshippers to leave a church in South London
A police officer asks worshippers to leave a church in South London   -  Copyright  AP Photo

Polish worshippers at a church in South London were surprised when a police officer interrupted their Good Friday service with the following warning:

"Ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is unfortunately unlawful under the coronavirus regulations we have currently. You are not allowed to meet inside with this many people under law."

The congregation were warned that if they didn't leave they would face a fine of up to €235 (200 pounds) and even a prison sentence.

They duly vacated the church, though not without a degree of anger.

"Precautions were made, everyone was keeping distance, everyone had masks on," said one man.

"I obviously felt very offended as I would say this is the most important day for us Christians," added another worshipper.

"I was so surprised why that happened. Where is the right?" asked one woman.

The church argued that regulations had been met but the police said some people were not wearing masks nor respecting social distancing rules. 

Current regulations in England allow places of worship to host services with "as many people as the place of worship can safely accommodate".

Those attending must also keep distance from people not from their own household or support bubble.