A gay couple in Taunton, Somerset, say that Christian street preacher told them to “burn in hell”.

Craig Manning and his civil partner, who does not want to be named, say they were walking through the town centre holding hands last month when the man began abusing them in public.

The couple were allegedly told they would burn in hell and Mr Manning said the same man had abused them last October.

Mr Manning told the Somerset County Gazette: “If people want to preach the word of the Bible they can do so, but I don’t think they should be shouting homophobic abuse up the high street at people.

“Everyone in the street turned and looked when he started shouting.

“It’s not right that he should condemn us, and make us feel threatened and intimidated in the middle of town.”

Police have confirmed they are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Local preacher Andrew Williams said he had nothing to do with the incident and added that preachers should preach, rather than judge.

Last week, Home Office minister James Brokenshire said the government would look at removing ‘insult’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which is sometimes used to prosecute homophobic preachers.

While a number of groups and campaigners – including Peter Tatchell, Liberty and the National Secular Society – support the proposals to change the law, gay rights charity Stonewall is opposed and says it will contest any attempts to change the law.