Court postpones silent prayer hearing

Adam Smith-Connor was approached by community officers while praying silently near the abortion facility.(Photo: ADF UK)

An army veteran criminally charged for praying silently outside an abortion clinic has expressed disappointment after the court postponed a hearing into his case.

A hearing for the case of Adam Smith-Connor had been due to take place last Thursday but will now be heard on 18 January, immediately before the criminal trial. 

He is being supported by ADF UK who plan to ask the court to dismiss the prosecution on the basis of unfairness. The Christian advocacy group says that Mr Smith-Connor was charged despite receiving assurances from police officers that praying silently in that location, which was within an abortion clinic 'buffer zone', was legal. 

Mr Smith-Connor said the legal battle to clear his name had been "punishing". 

"I still can't believe that in England in 2023, I have to face criminal prosecution for what I thought in my own mind," he said.

"Even if freedom prevails eventually, this process, now drawn out even further, has been punishing. I served in the army reserves for twenty years, including in Afghanistan, to protect fundamental freedoms – I never thought I'd have to defend such a basic right for myself here at home."

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, said the delay was disappointing.

"While the judge referred to the complexities of the case as the reason for postponing, we must remember that the facts of Adam's case are really very simple—he is being criminally charged for his silent prayer," he said.

"It is most unfortunate that this lengthy and gruelling process is continuing to impact Adam's life, for only having prayed in his head.

"Despite this setback, we remain committed to supporting Adam's legal defence and his basic human rights, including the right to think freely on a public street without interference from authorities, at the new trial date.

"It is deeply concerning for local councils to have the power to prosecute residents for alleged 'thought crimes' in a free society."