Police in Britain have dropped charges against Tory Councillor Anthony Stevens, 51, arrested for allegedly committing a “hate crime” by supporting Christian freedom of speech on Twitter.
The Crown Prosecution Service informed Stevens this week that his case was dropped without further action, said Christian Concern, whose legal arm Christian Legal Centre was supporting the councillor.
Stevens had filed a complaint with the Independent Office for Police Conduct and challenged bail conditions that restricted his council duties.
Stevens faced arrest at his home in August for social media posts supporting Conservative Councillor King Lawal, who was suspended for stating “Pride is Sin” on X.
Stevens retweeted a petition for Lawal’s reinstatement and shared a video of Lawal’s interview with MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on GB News, advocating for free speech. Arrested under the Public Order Act 1986, Stevens was detained for six hours at Kettering police station, where he was interrogated for “inciting racial hatred,” a claim he denied.
During the interrogation, Stevens was questioned about his political affiliations and tweets supporting Lawal. He emphasized his belief in free speech, regardless of agreement with the content. Additionally, Stevens faced questions about two other posts: one showing a video of a Quran being burned and another comparing police officers' disparate treatment of Christians and Muslims. He defended these as examples of free speech and religious discrimination.
Baroness Jacqueline Foster publicly criticized Stevens’ arrest, prompting Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley to review the case. In response, Stevens received a letter from Detective Inspector Mark Hopkinson, which was perceived as an attempt to intimidate him from speaking to the media. Stevens’ lawyers condemned this as oppressive and unconstitutional.
Stevens expressed relief but highlighted the impact on his reputation, business, health and relationships.
“Yes, I have been vindicated and I am relieved that no further action will be taken, but look what I have been put through,” he said. “My reputation, business, health and even my relationships, have been seriously affected by this abuse of police power.”
Stevens added: “There will always be a note on my police file saying that I was investigated for a ‘hate crime’ — that is wrong. "I was arrested in front of my children and labeled a racist by two Labour councillors. When the police arrived on my property it was clear they had made up their mind about me and behaved in a biased way towards me. I have serious concerns about how the Labour councillors and the police worked together, even colluded, to try and intimidate and silence me.”
He continued, “The accusation of racial hatred was ridiculous and insulting and was an attempt to smear me. My only crime had been supporting the only black local councillor in Northamptonshire and his freedom to express his Christian beliefs.”
Lord Macdonald, former director of public prosecutions, emphasized the need for police to understand free speech rights, especially in political contexts. He warned that criminalizing offense would erode a fundamental British value.
After his reinstatement in October, Lawal had said, “The tweet was an expression of my Christian faith by quoting passages from the Bible. This was an exercise in free speech. My intention in posting the tweet was not to cause harassment, alarm, or distress to any person or persons.”
Lawal’s tweet had followed threads that revealed lewd behaviors at LGBT pride events, which he deemed unacceptable, especially in the presence of children. His subsequent clarifications, citing biblical teachings on sin that include not just homosexuality but also lying, stealing and gossip, did little to quell the controversy.