No jail for man in death threats

Cleveleys Baptist Church, St George's Avenue, Cleveleys
Cleveleys Baptist Church, St George's Avenue, Cleveleys
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A man who threatened to kill a Baptist minister who refused to baptise him has escaped 
being sent to jail.

He was also banned indefinitely from contacting the minister, going into his church or entering the street where he lives.

Christopher Woodruff, 51, launched a campaign of harassment against the Reverend David Shaw, culminating in a confrontation in which the death threat was made as the minister put out his church bins.

Woodruff, of Clarendon Road, Blackpool, admitted threatening behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress when he appeared before Blackpool Magistrates.

He was given a six-week jail sentence, which magistrates suspended for a year.

He must undertake 12 months’ supervision and pay £50 court costs and £60 victims’ surcharge.

Chairman of the Bench Elizabeth Lynch said: “For the vicar this must have all been very frightening.”

Pam Smith, prosecuting, said the Rev Shaw was minister in charge of Cleveleys Baptist Church on St George’s Avenue.

Woodruff turned to the church after being in trouble and was initially welcomed to the congregation by the Rev Shaw, who had been at the church for 30 years.

The prosecutor said: “The reverend started to get messages on his landline answerphone from Woodruff, and the defendant’s presence at the church intimidated the reverend. The defendant appeared annoyed because Rev Shaw would not baptise him, which was something he wanted.

“On April 19, the reverend was putting out the bins when Woodruff approached him and asked for baptism. He began to glare at the reverend, bared his teeth and started to shout abuse.”

In his statement to police, the Rev Shaw, 64, said Woodruff had threatened to kill him and kept drawing his finger across his throat.

Woodruff moved close to his victim and continued his death threats over a 10-minute period before he went away.

“The reverend was shaking with fright and went inside and locked the doors.

“He took advice from a third party about what had gone on and that gave him the confidence to ring the police about his grave concerns about Woodruff’s actions towards him.

“The reverend told police he feared for his life and felt vulnerable.”

Gary McAnulty, defending, said: “At first, my client was welcomed into the church, and the reverend welcomed him to the faith.

“As a result, he was confused because he was later told Rev Shaw would not baptise him.

“My client was renovating his home and felt he wanted a rest, so he went to Cleveleys and, completely by chance, saw the Rev Shaw putting out the bins. My client wanted to know what was wrong about himself.”