Female street preacher wins legal challenge in the UK
Christian street preacher Hazel Lewis, 49, won her legal case after being accused of hate crimes and being falsely arrested by the local police. In February 2020, the preacher was arrested for allegedly making homophobic and racist comments and was held in custody for several hours.
Although Lewis provided audio evidence proving her innocence, the police went on to charge her for the accusations made against her. In court Judge Julia Newton ruled in favour of Lewis stating there is “no case to answer”. She was preaching outside Finsbury Park tube at the time of her arrest, where some members of the public were confused and asked the police ‘What law has she broken?’ Hazel Lewis had been open-air preaching for the past twelve years.
Miss Lewis’s case is believed to be the first case of a Christian woman facing trial for street preaching since Alison Redmon-Bate in 1997. Redmon-Bate’s case became famous after Judge Sedley ruled in her favour stating that “Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence”.
While in custody she provided audio evidence of her preaching, which subsequently revealed the allegations made against her were baseless and false. Hence, Tim Dieppe, head of public policy for Chrisitan Concern raised the question of the motivation of the Metropolitan police to go ahead with the charges.
“In spite of evidence from the recording that she said nothing hateful, they still proceeded to prosecute her. And the real question is, why did this happen? Police should never have arrested her number one and then point two, they shouldn’t have charged her because they knew from the evidence recording that there was nothing wrong. There was no crime committed,” said Dieppe.
After listening to the different sides District Judge Julia Netwon and the Highbury Corner Magistrates Court ruled in Lewis’s favour stating that her words may be disagreed with, but they were neither abusive nor threatening.