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South London preacher who sold followers £91 ‘Covid cure’ loses fraud appeal

Bishop Climate Wiseman, head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Bishop Climate Wiseman, head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell (Image: PA)

A preacher from south London who sold his followers a bogus cure for Covid-19 has lost his challenge against his conviction.

Bishop Climate Wiseman, head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell, told his followers they could “end up dropping dead” during the pandemic and told them to buy his £91 oil – a mixture of hyssop, cedarwood and olive oil.

He sold it under names including “divine cleansing oil” and “plague protection oil”, or as part of a “divine plague protection kit”, containing a card and scarlet yarn.

In February, Wiseman, then aged 47, was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court to one year in jail, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 130 hours of unpaid community work.

He was also told to pay a total of £60,072.

Wiseman attempted to appeal his conviction at a hearing in London this month.

But in a written ruling on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal concluded that it was “not persuaded that the conviction was unsafe”.

Lawyers for the preacher, also known as Dr Climate Wiseman and Climate Irungu, argued that the judge overseeing his trial “erroneously instructed the jury not to consider (his) religious beliefs at all”.

The Court of Appeal was also told that Judge Nigel Peters KC had corrected an “inadvertent error” by Wiseman’s barrister who said there had never been a trading standards investigation into the preacher, the church, or in relation to oils.

In fact, Wiseman and the church were investigated by trading standards in 2016 in relation to the sale of oils to cure cancer, but this did not lead to a prosecution as the product was withdrawn.

Wiseman’s lawyers argued this information given to jurors before they considered their verdict was “highly prejudicial material” and they should have been discharged.

Prosecutors rejected suggestions that Wiseman’s conviction was unsafe, arguing that “no real prejudice was caused” by the correction and that the jury was “sufficiently well-directed”.

It was also not accepted that the jury was “directed to ignore” Wiseman’s religious beliefs.

Lady Chief Justice Lady Carr, who heard the case with Mr Justice Goose and Mr Justice Foxton, concluded that Judge Peters was “correct to say that the trial was not a trial of religion, or of (Wiseman’s) religious beliefs”.

She said the relevance of his beliefs were “made clear to the jury”, adding that the judge “was fully entitled to take the view that, with appropriate introduction and direction, the trial could proceed fairly”.

The Court of Appeal also rejected Wiseman’s bid to appeal against the order for him to pay more than £60,000 in legal costs, concluding: “It is not arguable that there was any procedural unfairness or that the costs order was manifestly excessive”.

Wiseman told his trial that he was inspired by a visitation from God telling him he is a prophet who can cure coronavirus.

Some 10 witnesses from his congregation, including nurses, told how they were cured or prevented from getting Covid-19 after using the oil by steam inhalation or rubbing it on their skin.

Wiseman, who offered other products for sale, including an oil to help in court cases, denied fraud and two alternative counts under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

But he was found guilty by a jury in December 2022 of the more serious offence of fraud between March 23 2020 and March 24 2021.

Southwark Trading Standards was alerted to the Covid scam on March 24 2020 – the day after the country was plunged into a nationwide lockdown – while the BBC also carried out an investigation.