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Adam Smith-Connor

Army vet criminally charged for committing a “thoughtcrime”

#ThoughtTrials

Topic | Thoughtcrime

Adam – a veteran of the British Army Reserves who served in Afghanistan – was issued a fine by local authorities after he was caught praying silently near an abortion facility in Bournemouth, and was questioned as to “the nature of his prayer”. 

His offence? Praying for about his own experience, and the son he lost to a decision he made to pay for an abortion 22 years ago. He was praying also for the men and women facing difficult decisions with regard to abortion that day. He stood with his back to the facility, so as not to be misconstrued as trying to disrupt the privacy of anyone there. But a local regulation banned prayer as an “expression of approval or disapproval of abortion” on that public street. Now, authorities are arguing that that ban also applies to silent prayer. 

Who:
Adam Smith-Connor

Where:
Poole Magistrates Court, England

Advocacy Team:
Jeremiah Igunnubole

Adam Smith-Connor in front of the Poole magistrates Court.

"It isn’t for the authorities to determine the contents of my thoughts on this matter [abortion], on a public street”

Case Summary

A censorship zone or so-called “buffer zone” has been in place in Bournemouth since last October. The zone was implemented by local authorities through a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) which criminalises engaging in “an act” or even “attempted act” of “approval/disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means.

This includes but is not limited to “graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling” within an area surrounding the abortion facility. The PSPO further prohibits religious acts, including reading scripture, praying or crossing oneself.

Adam refused to pay his fine because he does not believe it can be illegal to pray in a public space in the UK – let alone in the privacy of one’s mind. 

We’re supporting Adam’s legal defense because freedom of thought, and freedom of religion, are protected absolutely through the Human Rights Act. The local authority – Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council- therefore has no power to introduce a prohibition on silent prayer. 

In permitting the prosecution of silent prayer, we are sailing into dangerous waters regarding human rights protections in the UK. Censorship zones are inherently wrong and engender unhelpful legal confusion regarding the right to free thought. Both domestic and international law have long established freedom of thought as an absolute right that must not ever be interfered with by the state,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, the organisation supporting Adam Smith-Connor’s legal defense.

Adam’s trial will take place in November, marking the third “thought trial” of this nature in 2023. 

Read all about the cases of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce and Father Sean Gough, both of whom were prosecuted for praying silently in their heads in an abortion facility “censorship zone” in Birmingham. Both have been found innocent in court, with the support of ADF UK. 

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Should religious freedom be protected in times of crisis?

“I support freedom of religious belief as a basic human right that deserves the highest level of protection.

I stand up against worship bans which are illiberal and non-democratic. Blanket bans on public worship are incompatible with the international human right to the communal exercise of religious freedom. Fundamental freedoms apply to all, and they must be protected rather than weakened in times of crisis.”