Charges dropped against pro-life volunteer arrested for silent prayer
A pro-lifer who was arrested for praying silently near an abortion clinic and charged with engaging in an "intimidating" act has had the charges against her dropped.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the UK director of March for Life, was searched and arrested by three police officers in an abortion clinic buffer zone in Birmingham last December after she told them she "might be" praying in her head.
She was later charged with "protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users" inside an abortion clinic buffer zone despite the clinic being closed at the time.
ADF UK, which is supporting Vaughan-Spruce, said the CPS has now communicated that they have discontinued the charges against Vaughan-Spruce.
They have, however, stated that the charges "may well start again" if further evidence emerges.
ADF UK said the development had left Vaughan-Spruce "with significant legal unclarity" and she now intends to seek a clear verdict in court.
Commenting on her case, she said, "It can't be right that I was arrested and made a criminal, only for praying in my head on a public street.
"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," she said.
"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."
A date for the first hearing has not yet been set.
Her legal counsel, Jeremiah Igunnubole of ADF UK, said, "Isabel is right to request proper clarity as to the lawfulness of our actions.
"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 evidence 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 gruelling process from the beginning.
"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. ADF UK remain committed to supporting Isabel's pursuit because no one should fear prosecution for silent prayer and thoughts in the privacy of their mind."