Judge Julia Newton Rules
“No Case to Answer”
On 9 August, Christian Concern announced the news of a verdict in a major free speech case before UK courts. District Judge Julia Newton was the presiding judge.
“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.
“Hazel Lewis, 49, was arrested while preaching a biblical passage outside Finsbury Park tube station in North London on 12 February 2020, after false accusations were made against her by members of the public.
“The case is believed to be the first time a Christian woman has faced trial for street preaching since Alison Redmond-Bate in 1997. In that case, Judge Sedley famously ruled in the preacher’s favour and said 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”.
“However, in this incident, Miss Lewis was arrested under Section 4 of the Public Order Act for making homophobic and racist comments, despite evidence that these allegations were false.
“During her arrest, baffled members of the public can be heard telling the police that Miss Lewis had not done anything wrong and asked: “What law has she broken”?
“Miss Lewis, a cancer survivor who has been open air preaching for 12 years, has spoken of the range of dangers female preachers face on London’s streets. She says that she has had urine thrown at her and is frequently threatened and verbally abused.
“Handcuffed and put in a police van, Miss Lewis was taken to Charing Cross Police Station where she was held in custody and released in the middle of the night.
“Fortunately, Miss Lewis had been recording audio of her preaching, which was discovered at the custody check-in. She knew that the evidence would prove the accusers’ claim to be untrue.
“Miss Lewis was so sure of her innocence that she initially refused legal representation.
“It has been alleged that Miss Lewis had made a child cry and had been threatening when she said in response to one man’s provocation: ‘you are an advocate of Satan and I rebuke you in Jesus’ name.
She also said that her detractors should be more concerned about recent cases of knife crime in the neighbourhood that her peaceful biblical message.
Yet three members of the public twisted her words, telling the police that she was calling for sinners to be stabbed.
Although this was proven false during the course of the investigation by the audio recording, officers change the charges against her to a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, accusing her of causing harassment, alarm, and distress.
Supported the Christian Legal Centre, Miss Lewis faced a full trial at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on 28 July.
During the trial, a witness statement from a police officer who had reviewed Miss Lewis’ recording stated that a memo er of the public appeared to have been ‘goading’ her to comment on homosexuality but she ‘refused to take the bait’. He added, ‘at no point do you hear her make any homophobic or racist remarks against anyone’.
Handing down the judgment in court, District Judge Julian Newton, said,
“The defendant is alleged to have said, ‘you are an advocate of Satan and I rebuke in 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. However, that does not amount to harassment, alarm, or distress.
“In addition, there is no evidence as to why 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”.
The Christian Legal Centre represented Miss Lewis in the case in question.
More information at: www.christianconcern.com