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Army vet pleads “not guilty” following charges related to praying silently near abortion facility

  • Army veteran & father faces charges related to praying silently near abortion facility
  • VIDEO: Adam Smith-Connor delivers emotional speech following court hearing

BOURNEMOUTH/POOLE, UK (9th August 2023)Adam Smith-Connor, army veteran and father, has pled “not guilty” to charges related to breaking a local “buffer zone” regulation by praying silently, in his mind. 

Smith-Connor was issued a fine by local authorities after he was caught praying silently near an abortion facility on Orphir Road, Bournemouth, and was questioned as to “the nature of his prayer”. 

We are standing in the nation of the Magna Carta, the nation which has championed democracy and freedom. We have a history of upholding human rights we can be proud of, and a respect for freedom that I fought to uphold when I served this country for twenty years in the army reserves, including in Afghanistan. Yet here I stand before you on the steps of Poole Magistrates Court being prosecuted – for a thought crime. 

The facts of my case are clear. I am accused of breaching an abortion clinic buffer zone by praying for my son Jacob and other victims of abortion, for their families and for abortion clinic staff on Ophir Road Bournemouth. I did not approach anyone, I did not speak to anyone, I did not breach any one’s privacy. I simply stood silently. I am being tried for the prayerful thoughts I held in my head,said Adam Smith-Connor upon exiting the court. 

Smith-Connor, who was praying silently for those facing difficult decisions relating to abortion, as well as praying regarding the child that he lost to an abortion that he now regrets paying for, is expected to enter a plea of “not guilty”. His legal defense is supported by ADF UK.  

Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK, was present at court with Smith-Connor. 

“This marks the third time this year that we at ADF UK have come to the defence of a citizen facing charges simply for their thoughts, exercised in a public space. If Adam had been thinking about an issue other than abortion – for example, climate change – then there would be no hearing taking place today. Citizens in this country should be equally free to hold thoughts about the important social issue of abortion, and how it has impacted their lives and the lives of their loved ones. And in any democracy with a respect for religion freedom, all should be allowed to pray to the God that they worship, no less, in the privacy of their own minds.

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.

Outside the court, supporters congregated with 1984-inspired signs decrying the “thoughtpolice”: “looks like you’ve had a little too much to think!”

Members of the public who support Adam’s case for freedom of thought are invited to join ADF UK in backing his legal defense at www.adf.uk/support-adam/ 

Thought on Trial Again 

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested for praying in her head in similar circumstances earlier this year, also attended the Hearing at Poole Magistrates Court to support Adam. 

In a viral video in December, Vaughan-Spruce was seen being searched and arrested by three police officers after saying that she “might be” praying inside her head.    

Following the arrest, Vaughan-Spruce was criminally charged on the basis that her silent, imperceptible prayers amounted to “intimidation”. The charitable volunteer was found “not guilty” by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court in March.  

Yet shortly following this clarification from the Court, Vaughan-Spruce was arrested a second time for the same peaceful, imperceptible activity – by praying silently in her head in a censorial “buffer zone”. The arrest was attended by six police officers. The now-viral videos of Vaughan-Spruce’s first and second arrests ignited an international outcry. Vaughan-Spruce is still waiting to hear whether she will be criminally charged again for her thoughts. 

“I cannot believe we are seeing yet another day in court where silent prayer – peaceful thought – is put on trial.  

As charitable volunteers, pro-lifers like myself and Adam have dedicated years of service to supporting vulnerable women in crisis pregnancies. We absolutely condemn harassment. What we are doing is the furthest thing from harassment. All we have ever done near abortion facilities is pray, or offer help to those who might want an opportunity to avoid abortion if only particular needs are met. Within buffer zones, we pray peacefully and silently within our minds. These are good, helpful and lawful activities in the UK.  

Censorial buffer zones are an affront to women and an affront to society. They criminalise offers of charitable help and put innocent people like Adam in the dock for the thoughts in his head.”  

Smith-Connor’s Case: Background 

The army veteran and father has been charged with allegedly breaking a local censorship zone or “buffer zone” regulation, imposed via a Public Spaces Protection Order. The regulation forbids “expressions of approval or disapproval” of abortion on several streets in the vicinity of the abortion facility. It names prayer as such an expression, as well as “crossing oneself”.

SEE NEW FOOTAGE OF ADAM’S INTERACTION WITH COUNCIL OFFICERS HERE: “It’s the prayer that you’ve admitted to, sir.”

He was issued a fine, despite being there for only a few minutes and praying silently in his mind, with his back turned away from the building so that his presence could not be misconstrued as seeking to erode the privacy of women visiting the facility. 

 Smith-Connor’s legal team contend that freedom of thought is protected absolutely through the Human Rights Act and therefore the Council has no power to introduce a prohibition on silent prayer.  

FIND FULL DETAILS OF THE CASE HERE.  

 To request an interview with Adam Smith Connor and Jeremiah Igunnubole (legal counsel for ADF UK, supporting Smith-Connor’s defense) contact Lois McLatchie on +447932512279 or lmclatchie@adfinternational.org.   

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