ESSEX, England — A street preacher in England who spent 11 hours behind bars when a lesbian falsely accused him of preaching against homosexuality has reached a settlement with police surrounding his unlawful arrest and imprisonment.
As previously reported, the incident occurred in September 2013 while evangelist Rob Hughes was preaching on the streets of Basildon, Essex.
A woman approached him and announced that she was “gay and proud” and demanded, “Get down off your pedestal, you judgmental (expletive). Homophobia is not in this town.”
“She threw a number of profanities against me,” he recalled to the Daily Mail.
However, Hughes had not mentioned homosexuality at all that day as he preached on the existence of God and the biblical mandate to repent from sin and turn to Christ.
Nonetheless, Hughes was soon approached by police, who advised that they had received a complaint that Hughes had engaged in hate speech by preaching against homosexuality. Police advised that such speech was a violation of the Public Order Act, Section 5, which bans “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior, or disorderly behavior” or the display of “any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting” within earshot of sight of a person “likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”
As Hughes was interviewed by police on street, his friend, Andrew Noble, was also interrogated by officers.
“Did you say that homosexuality is sinful?” Noble remembers the police inquiring.
But although the men stated that Hughes had not spoken on homosexuality, the evangelist was taken into custody and placed behind bars. His legal counsel was called for help.
“I was taken to the police station, processed, mugshot, fingerprints, DNA—the whole works,” Hughes recalled.
He spent 11 hours incarcerated, where he was further questioned by police.
“They asked me a number of questions: ‘Why were you out?’ ‘What were you saying?’ ‘Did you say what the people said?’ I said ‘no,'” the preacher remembered. “Of course I was polite and courteous.”
As Hughes had recorded his time on the street that day for his protection, he suggested to the police that they should listen to the recording. Police reportedly expressed no interest in doing so, but advised by the end of the interview that Hughes would be released due to lack of evidence.
The evangelist, represented by the Christian Legal Center, went on to file a legal challenge against the police. He recently reached a settlement as authorities agreed to pay the equivalent of $2800 U.S. dollars to help cover fees for obtaining representation. His complaint cited wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of human rights.
“These cases are further examples of situations where the freedom of Christian preachers is restricted, when what they are saying is entirely lawful,” said Christian Legal Center Founder Andrea Williams. “In Mr. Hughes’s case, he was not even talking about sexuality and yet was targeted by a member of the public who tried to shut him down.”