Earlier this month, authorities reportedly dropped charges against Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a woman who was arrested for praying silently near an abortion facility. While it seemed that her battle was finally over, she still had to face a court battle that could leave her with a criminal record. The court ultimately ruled in Vaughan-Spruce’s favor.
Christian Today reported that, despite the fact that charges were dropped, Vaughan-Spruce still had to present herself at a hearing at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court. If the court found her guilty, she would have had a criminal record. Charges also could have been reinstated if the court had not found her innocent.
In a press release, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK announced the verdict. “I’m glad I’ve been vindicated of any wrongdoing. But I should never have been arrested for my thoughts and treated like a criminal simply for silently praying on a public street,” Vaughan-Spruce said outside the courthouse.
“When it comes to censorship zones, peaceful prayer and attempts to offer help to women in crisis pregnancies are now being described as either “criminal” or “anti-social”. But what is profoundly anti-social are the steps now being taken to censor freedom of speech, freedom to offer help, freedom to pray and even freedom to think. We must stand firm against this and ensure that these most fundamental freedoms are protected, and that all our laws reflect this.”
Vaughan-Spruce was arrested while standing near the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham, where abortions are committed. There is a buffer zone in place, which bans people from “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 saw Vaughan-Spruce standing silently, they asked if she was praying; she answered that she “might be,” and was arrested.
“Today’s court case is of great cultural significance. This isn’t 1984, but 2023 – nobody should be criminalised for their thoughts, for their prayers, for peaceful expression on a public street,” Jeremiah Igunnubole, the legal counsel from ADF UK representing Vaughan-Spruce, said, adding, “It’s great that they have found justice, although with such gruelling legal battles, the process is often the punishment. Their case may have closed today, but it should be marked in this conversation as a cautionary tale. In the UK, freedom of thought, prayer, offers of help, and peaceful conversation are not illegal and we call on Parliament to reject the creation of more censorship zones through vaguely worded public order legislation.”