A Christian street preacher who was vindicated after a judge cleared her of making abusive comments will sue London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which she said was “determined to prosecute me no matter what”.
Hazel Lewis, 49, was arrested while preaching outside Finsbury Park Tube underground station in north London in February 2020 after passersby falsely claimed she had called for non-Christians and homosexuals to be stabbed.
Miss Lewis appeared to have had the foresight to record herself while preaching, so when police arrived to arrest the Christian woman under the Public Order Act for allegedly making racist or homophobic remarks, she handed her phone to officers to review the footage, which proved she had not made any such utterances.
However, London’s police still went ahead and charged her with another public order offence, related to using abusive, threatening, or insulting words to cause alarm, distress, or harassment, engaging the Christian woman in an 18-month long legal battle, The Telegraph detailed on Monday.
The charges rested on allegations that she made a child cry and had been threatening when she told one man: “You are an advocate of Satan and I rebuke you in Jesus’ name.”
A Christian preacher is set to sue the Metropolitan Police after being dragged through the courts despite officers acknowledging that her accuser had “goaded” her and she “refused to take the bait".https://t.co/H9LApaVDVg
— Christian Concern (@CConcern) August 10, 2021
Evidence heard at Highbury Magistrates Court last month revealed that officers had, in fact, accepted that the person who had accused Miss Lewis of a crime was seen in the video to be “trying to goad her into commenting on his sexuality. She does not however take the bait.”
“At no point do you hear her make homophobic or racial remarks against anyone… She at no point during the recording is calling for the stabbing or murder of any group based on their lack of religious beliefs,” the officer’s statement admitted.
District Judge Julia Newton ruled that there was no case against Miss Lewis as her words had not been threatening or abusive.
Toby Young’s Free Speech Union remarked of the result on Tuesday: “Street preachers like Hazel Lewis are standing up for the speech rights of all of us. Even after a recording proved she hadn’t said what a malicious passer-by accused her of, the police still prosecuted her. She’s now been cleared.”
Recounting her experiences, the Christian said that members of the public had “wanted to silence me and twist what I was saying”.
Of the police pursuing a prosecution despite admitting she had not made any illegal remarks, Miss Lewis said: “They were determined to prosecute me no matter what.”
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 29, 2021
Miss Lewis is now preparing to sue Scotland Yard, with Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported the woman, warning: “Since the turn of the century we have seen a concerning escalation in street preacher arrests despite strong legal precedents being set in defence of their freedoms.
“It is chilling that one false accusation to the police can see a woman preaching on her own handcuffed, arrested and prosecuted.”
Other recent incidents of Christian preachers being detained by police, similarly on allegations of quoting parts of the Bible deemed ‘homophobic’, include the arrest of 71-year-old Pastor John Sherwood of the Penn Free Methodist Church in April of this year.
During Pastor John’s arrest in northwest London, one officer was seen pulling the elderly man down from his step ladder before kicking him, followed by at least two other officers descending on the preacher to force his arms behind his back.
Speaking after the arrest the following month, fellow preacher Peter Simpson accused the police of elevating LGBT rights above others.
Hazel Lewis added in remarked shared by Christian Concern, a charity linked to the Christian Legal Centre: “It has taken nearly 18 months, but I am delighted that the judge has seen through the lies and has vindicated me.
“All I was doing was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I was arrested for it. There are dangers out on the streets – I have had urine thrown at me and have been threatened, but Christians are called to preach the gospel of salvation and hope in any situation, no matter how tough, so I am not afraid.
“Despite this experience, I am determined to keep preaching. Since the pandemic began, I have seen more and more Christians taking to the streets of London to preach.”
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 27, 2021
The Christian Institute reported in 2019 of two successful legal challenges against English police forces which wrongly arrested Christian street preachers, including that of Dale Mcalpine, who Cumbria Police paid £4,000 plus costs for their wrongful arrest and false imprisonment in July 2018.
The London Met was forced to pay £2,500 to Oluwole Ilesanmi for his wrongful arrest after being detained on suspicion of committing a hate crime, allegedly for criticising Islam, in February 2019.
During his arrest, an officer confiscated Mr Ilesanmi’s Bible. When the street preacher begged, “Don’t take my Bible away. Don’t take my Bible away,” the London officer replied: “You should have thought about that before being racist.”
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 17, 2021