Destiny Church Hamilton pastor John Ferris guilty of lockdown protest rallies

Destiny Church Hamilton pastor John Ferris has pleaded guilty to organizing and attending public gatherings during the Tier 3 lockdown in the Waikato.

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Destiny Church Hamilton pastor John Ferris has pleaded guilty to organizing and attending public gatherings during the Tier 3 lockdown in the Waikato.

The best man at Destiny Church in Hamilton has admitted to being charged with organizing and attending public gatherings in a city park while the area was on Level 3 alert.

John James Ferris, 56, of Rotokauri, Hamilton, appeared in Hamilton District Court on Friday where he pleaded guilty to two counts of staging a public gathering at Claudelands Park and two counts of attending these gatherings.

Charges of “participation” carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison or a fine of up to $4,000.

In court, Ferris’ lawyer, Thomas Sutcliffe, asked Judge Noel Cocurullo not to issue convictions against his client. It was because he intended to seek an absolution without conviction.

A large group of mostly school-age protesters gathered in Claudelands Park on November 30 last year.  Also present was Destiny Church pastor John Ferris, who was later charged by police.

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A large group of mostly school-age protesters gathered in Claudelands Park on November 30 last year. Also present was Destiny Church pastor John Ferris, who was later charged by police.

Sutcliffe said that if Ferris had any previous convictions, they were “historic…since he was a much younger man”.

The judge remanded Ferris on bail until his next court appearance on May 11, when release will be debated.

John Ferris and his wife Ali Ferris are the pastors of the Hamilton Branch of Destiny Church. According to a biography posted on the church’s website, the couple have served as leaders of the Hamilton church since 2002, after a stint as assistant pastor in Nelson.

“Pastor John has been in church for over 36 years and has been preaching since he was 19 after a dramatic encounter with Christ at age 17 that caused an incredible life change,” states the biography .

Protesters clashed with Hamilton District Court security personnel outside the courthouse, ahead of Ferris' appearance.

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Protesters clashed with Hamilton District Court security personnel outside the courthouse, ahead of Ferris’ appearance.

Court documents, however, state that Ferris’ occupation is “factory worker.”

After Ferris appeared in court, a Things photographer attempting to take pictures of him as he left the courthouse was rushed and mocked by a crowd of around 20 of his supporters, who also surrounded the defendant and attempted to protect him with umbrellas.

Earlier, a group of protesters who had gathered at the entrance to the district court clashed with court security guards. One of the guards was hit with a purse by one of the protesters. Things understands that she received a warning but was not charged by the police.

Ferris’ charges cover a period between October 8 and October 30 last year, when the city and much of the Waikato region were in a Level 3 alert lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. Delta variant.

Security personnel are surrounded by the protest group outside Hamilton District Court on Friday.

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Security personnel are surrounded by the protest group outside Hamilton District Court on Friday.

One of the “organizing” charges is representative, meaning it covers a number of incidents between October 16 and October 30.

It states that Ferris “intentionally failed to comply with the Covid-19 Public Health Response Order (No. 12) 2021 (Alert Level Requirements), by staging a gathering of more than 10 more people of two households in an outdoor location, namely Claudelands Park, Hamilton, an Alert Level 3 (Stage 1) area.

Another accusation relates to his participation in a rally in the park on October 30, when a demonstration by the “Coalition for Freedom and Rights” was held there.

Some of those who attended the event were later called “incredibly selfish” by Helen Petousis-Harris, an associate professor at the University of Auckland.

The people she was referring to were the parents of children in Morrinsville – then at Alert Level 2 – who crossed the border into the Level 3 area to join the protest.

“They seem to have a sense of complacency,” she said. Things.

“Encouraging your child to break something that was put in place to protect the community is incredibly irresponsible.”

The Hamilton event was advertised as a “family picnic” and it is understood that more than 1,000 people attended.

Ferris was not the only church member to appear in court for breaches of the Covid lockdown in recent times.

Amiria Marara Tuoro, 36, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of driving precariously on a moving vehicle during an anti-lockdown protest led by Destiny Church in Hamilton on November 13.

She was fined $500 by a community magistrate.

Sara H. Byrd