A female street preacher in the UK is set to sue the Metropolitan Police following an 18-month legal battle to clear her name after she was falsely accused of threatening to stab non-Christians.
Hazel Lewis was arrested while preaching outside Finsbury Park tube station on February 12, 2020, after three members of the public told police that she had called for sinners to be stabbed, Christian Concern reported.
The 49-year-old was arrested under Section 4 of the Public Order Act for allegedly making homophobic and racist comments, before police changed the charges to a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, accusing her of causing harassment, alarm, and distress.
During her arrest, members of the public could be heard telling the police that Lewis had done nothing wrong.
Lewis told the officers she made no such comments and was able to provide an audio recording as proof.
According to Christianity Today, “when the case went to trial last month, the court heard the witness statement of a police officer who reviewed the audio recording and concluded that a member of the public appeared to be ‘goading’ her to comment on homosexuality but she had ‘refused to take the bait.’”
The officer admitted, “at no point do you hear her make any homophobic or racist 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 belief.”
District Judge Julia Newton ruled there was no evidence of distress and Lewis had no case to answer.
Lewis, who now intends on launching legal action against the police said, “It has taken nearly 18 months, but I am delighted that the judge has seen through the lies and has vindicated me.
“When police arrived, despite me telling them that the allegations were false, they still arrested me without any evidence other than from members of the public who wanted to silence me and twist what I was saying,” Lewis said.
“In custody, I told the arresting officer that I had forgiven him. I was not shocked, however, that despite the evidence on my phone that they still charged me. Street preachers are currently easy targets for the police and too many of us are unlawfully being fined, arrested, and prosecuted instead of receiving equal protection and support all law-abiding citizens are entitled to and should be confident in expecting.”
Lewis said she’s concerned about what might have happened had she not been able to provide a recording of the incident, saying: “It seemed that they were determined to prosecute me no matter what.”
“All I was doing was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I was arrested for it,” she said. “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.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said since the turn of the century there has been 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,” Williams said.
“The police were determined to charge her no matter what the evidence, and we are relieved that the courts have seen through it.”
Lewis said despite the ordeal, she’s determined to continue preaching.