Charges have been dropped against Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the British woman who was arrested in December after she admitted she “might” be praying outside an abortion facility — yet her legal team is warning that there is still a chance she could be charged in the future.
Vaughan-Spruce was approached by police and subsequently arrested after she was seen standing in the vicinity of BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham — an abortion business. That area is under a buffer zone, which criminalizes anyone “engaging in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval” in relation to abortion, including through “verbal or written means, prayer or counseling…”. When police asked if she was silently praying, she responded that she “might” be. This simple “thoughtcrime” led to her arrest.
Per The Epoch Times, Vaughan-Spruce was due at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Wednesday; it has since been announced that her charges were dropped.
“We review all cases ahead of court where the police have charged. Following a review of this case, we concluded that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction,” a spokesperson for Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told The Epoch Times.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK is defending Vaughan-Spruce in the case. In a news release, the legal team noted that the CPS has warned that charges “may well start again” pending receipt of further evidence. In response, Vaughan-Spruce has stated her intention to clear her name of all charges.
“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.”
Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest was a striking example of the overreach seen when buffer zones have been established outside abortion facilities. Policing of these zones has been particularly egregious in the UK, where, as was seen in Vaughan-Spruce’s case, people can get arrested for silently standing outside abortion facilities. During a similar instance in January, an Army veteran was arrested when he, too, was silently praying outside in a buffer zone.
“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 grueling process from the beginning,” commented Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK. “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.”
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