A 12-year-old child dressed in white robes was tied to a cross in front of a crowd of onlookers yesterday.

It may sound like a matter for the police but was in fact the annual Good Friday Easter Act of Witness event held in Moulsecoomb, Brighton.

The young man was Joseph Salvage, a committed churchgoer who at the age of 12 was reprising for the second time his role as Jesus.

He stood with his arms outstretched, watched by parishioners, as Reverend John Wall, of St Andrew’s Church, Moulsecoomb, led a short service.

Following the singing of hymns, four church leaders narrated the story of the passion, in which Pilate sentences Jesus to die on the cross.

Speaking afterwards Joseph, who attends St Andrew's Church, said: “It hurts your arms after a while but I enjoy it. It’s good that people care about Jesus and that we’re representing what happened when Jesus was alive.

“The crown of thorns stuck into my head a bit, but that’s OK.”

Joseph’s crown was mercifully made of sticks and leaves, rather than a spikier alternative.

He said: “This shows the time of Jesus when he was crucified, it brings the moment to life and it really makes people think about how he suffered on the cross to save us."

Reverend John Wall, who was officiating the ceremony for the 11th time, said: “This is an Act of Witness, it’s a way of showing that we are active within our community, and when you think about terrible things happening to Christians around the world it is a way of standing in solidarity with them.”

His church also played host to a morning of children’s activities which included re-enacting the Easter story using food.

He said: “We’ve had a lot of makings of tombs with Jammy Dodgers with chocolate buttons being used as stones to roll away.”

Mary Funnell, 63, watched the ceremony as she has done every year since moving to the area aged 11.

She said: “This has been going on for more than 50 years, and I think it’s a pity that these days there aren’t as many people going to church.

“I’m Irish Roman Catholic myself, but what’s important is that this is our faith and these are our traditions and it’s nice that they are observed.”