Woman cleared of ‘vexing’ Hampstead priest during ‘anti-Satanic’ protest
PUBLISHED: 14:24 08 October 2015 | UPDATED: 12:19 09 October 2015
A woman has been cleared of having “vexed” a priest and disrupting a Sunday service.
Neelu Berry, 56, was accused of engaging in “riotous, violent and/or indecent” behaviour at Christ Church in Hampstead.
On March 22, she was alleged to have taken part in a protest of about 30 people outside the church, relating to disproven allegations it was home to a Satanic child abuse ring.
Just days before, these allegations were found by a High Court judge to be a “fantasy” and “nothing other than utter nonsense”.
During the protest, Ms Berry, of Peel Drive, Ilford, was alleged to have filmed the vicar, asking him “inappropriate questions” about child abuse, and causing him distress. She was also accused of having to be escorted out of the church building after allegedly banging on the doors and disrupting a Sunday service.
She was charged under the archaic Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860, a law rarely used.
Denying all charges, she appeared at Highbury Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
But the trial into her case collapsed and she was cleared of any wrongdoing after the prosecution failed to provide any evidence against her.
The court heard how two witnesses due to give evidence were not present, with one withdrawing her statement because she was allegedly scared of repercussions. The other witness was abroad.
Prosecutors applied to adjourn the trial but the judge refused, saying the delays to this case were already “scandalous”. The trial date had been put back earlier in the year after prior problems with witnesses.
While describing the charges as “serious”, involving something upsetting allegedly being said to a five-year-old child, Judge Jacobs noted Ms Berry had already attended court four times and had been at no fault for the delays. He added: “The fault lies at the door of the crown. Ms Berry has a right to have the matter dealt with.”
Her defence, Ms Callinan, said Ms Berry was a woman of good character and suggested this was a case of “mistaken identity”.
Describing her client as a “vulnerable defendant in terms of her health”, she added that an adjournment “would be a complete waste of public money” and that the case against her was “weak”.
Ms Berry was cleared of all charges.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “While we were aware that two of the witnesses in this case were not available to attend the trial, we were unable to determine whether their evidence was essential to the case until we received the CCTV from the police.
“This was not received until the afternoon before the trial. Unfortunately when the CCTV was reviewed it did not provide sufficient evidence without the evidence of the two witnesses.
“On the day of trial we asked for an adjournment, however, this was refused and we had no choice but to offer no evidence. Any decision by the CPS does not imply any finding concerning guilt or criminal conduct; the CPS makes decisions only according to the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and it is applied in all decisions on whether or not to prosecute.”