UK police drops charges against woman who silently prayed near abortion clinic
Officials said that the charges “may well start again”. The defence claims that she is “in a significant legal unclarity and will seek clear verdict in court”.
ADF · Birmingham · 08 FEBRUARY 2023 · 15:31 CET
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was searched and arrested last December by the police in an abortion clinic buffer zone in Birmingham, and charged with “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users”, despite the clinic being closed.
“A significant legal unclarity”
ADF UK, which is defending the pro-lifer, warned that CPS “made clear that charges may well start again if further evidence emerges”, so that Vaughan-Spruce is now “in a significant legal unclarity” until the date for the first hearing is set.
“It's one thing for the authorities to humiliatingly search and arrest an individual simply for their thoughts. It's quite another to initially deem those thoughts to be sufficient to justify charges, then discontinue those charges due to 'insufficient evidence', and then to warn that further evidence relating to the already unclear charges may soon be forthcoming so as to restart the entire grueling process from the beginning”, said ADF UK lawyer, Jeremiah Igunnubole.
The UK director of March for Life stressed that “it's important to me that I can continue my vital work in supporting women who'd like to avoid abortion if they only had some help”.
“In order to do so, it's vital that I have clarity as to my legal status. Many of us need an answer as to whether it's still lawful to pray silently in our own heads. That's why I'll be pursuing a verdict regarding my charges in court”, she added.
Buffer zones and freedom of speech
Last October, the UK parliament voted in favour of changing the Public Order law to implement “buffer zones” around abortion clinics in England and Wales.
According to Vaughan-Spruce, “so-called 'buffer zone legislation' will result in so many more people like me, doing good and legal activities like offering charitable support to women in crisis pregnancies, or simply praying in their heads, being treated like criminals and even facing court”.
For ADF, “this is a clear instance of the process becoming the punishment creating a chilling effect on free expression and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. No one should fear prosecution for silent prayer and thoughts in the privacy of their mind”.