A female street preacher in the United Kingdom, who was arrested last year for allegedly threatening members of the public, was exonerated by a district judge.
Police detained Hazel Lewis, 49, on Feb. 12, 2020, outside Finsbury Park tube station in North London for reportedly making homophobic and racist comments. Several community members defended her during the arrest, asking police "What law has she broken?"
Allegations against Lewis included making a child cry and using hostile language toward a citizen. Police also charged her with harassment, causing alarm, and provoking distress.
BREAKING: The first Christian woman to face trial for street preaching since a landmark free speech case in 1997 has been told there was 'no case to answer' by a district judge. https://t.co/MFzD0wuMwD
— Christian Concern (@CConcern) August 9, 2021
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, the preacher faced a full trial at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court.
In a ruling last week, District Judge Julia Newton noted, "The defendant is alleged to have said, 'you are an advocate of Satan and I rebuke you in Jesus' name'. I don't find those words threatening. These words were certainly disagreed with. I do not find that they were abusive either."
"Further, in relation to distress. It is clear that (a witness) was disturbed and found them to be unpleasant. She said that other people were distressed. She said that she was distressed and found these words were unpleasant. However, that does not amount to harassment, alarm or distress," she remarked.
"In addition, there is no evidence as to why the children were crying. Whilst there was a lot of noise, there were a lot of things that could have led the children to cry. I find that there is no case to answer."
After 18 months of ongoing legal proceedings, Lewis is now planning to sue the police.
"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.
"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."
Andrea Williams chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre called Lewis a "courageous Christian woman" for her determination to disprove the baseless accusations of hate speech brought against her.
"It is chilling that one false accusation to the police can see a woman preaching on her own handcuffed, arrested, and prosecuted," Williams stated. "The police were determined to charge her no matter what the evidence, and we are relieved that the courts have seen through it."