A twice-persecuted Christian woman was vindicated once more when her arrest outside an abortion clinic culminated in victories for life and liberty as well as an apology from law enforcement.
For the second time over the span of a few months, March for Life UK director Isabel Vaughan-Spruce had been arrested when police found her silently praying outside a Birmingham, England abortion clinic on March 6, 2023. Six months later, Alliance Defending Freedom UK confirmed that no charges were being brought against their client and that the apologetic West Midlands Police may be facing their own legal troubles.
“This isn’t 1984, but 2023 — I should never have been arrested or investigated simply for the thoughts I held in my own mind. Silent prayer is never criminal. I welcome West Midland Police’s decision to end their investigation and their apology for the time it took to do so, but it’s important to highlight the extremely harmful implications of this ordeal not just for myself, but for everyone concerned with fundamental freedoms in the UK,” a statement from Vaughn-Spruce read via ADF UK.
Having previously been arrested in December 2022 only to have the charges dropped in February, on March 6 the pro-life advocate was seen outside an abortion clinic and arrested again for allegedly violating a Public Space Protection Order that by doing so within a “buffer zone” of the facility.
BREAKING: Isabel has been arrested, AGAIN, for THINKING.
MPs vote TOMORROW on banning silent prayer near all abortion facilities in&
“You’ve said you’re engaging in prayer, which is the offense.”
“You were still engaging in prayer, which is the offense.” pic.twitter.com/AId3OguiXz
— ADF UK (@ADF_UK) March 6, 2023
“What happened to me signals to others that they too could face arrest, interrogation, investigation, and potential prosecution if caught exercising their basic freedom of thought,” the UK March for Life director contended.
“Now that authorities have twice settled on the conclusion that silent prayer is not a crime — a conclusion also reached by the Home Secretary last week — I am thankful to resume my practice of praying silently for women in crisis pregnancies,” she added.
As it happened, Home Secretary Suella Braverman had issued an open letter to law enforcement stating in part that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful” and “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence.”
The vast majority of police officers work incredibly hard for the British people.
But police getting involved in politically contentious matters is shaking public confidence.
I’ve written to policing leaders to remind them of the importance of remaining impartial 1/2 pic.twitter.com/E8kQNlLSNz
— Suella Braverman MP (@SuellaBraverman) September 2, 2023
Left unaddressed was an apparent discrepancy between the West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which denied that the case had ever been referred to their agency, despite the former blaming the latter for the delay in resolving the matter.
After filing a Freedom of Information request, ADF UK was informed by CPS that it was their position “the police should not submit a case to the CPS for charging advice when they have the power to make the charging decision themselves.”
“The arduous process of this criminal ordeal has been the punishment for Isabel. Moreover, her story has put the world on notice that fundamental freedoms are vulnerable in the UK,” said ADF UK legal counsel Jeremiah Igunnubole.
“There is now an urgent need for legal changes to stem the tide of policing by politics. We hope the decision from West Midlands Police that they will not prosecute free thought, alongside the Home Secretary’s public commitment to protecting silent prayer, will be reflected in legislation, guidance, and practice,” he added after a previous effort to amend the Public Order Act to protect silent prayer in “buffer zones” had failed 116 to 299 in Parliament.
Vaughn-Spruce and ADF UK were said to be considering mounting their own case against the police for the manner in which she had been treated.
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