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Disappointment for Army Veteran as hearing postponed in “thoughtcrime” prosecution

  • Judge postpones; citing complexities of Adam Smith-Connor’s silent prayer prosecution  
  • New trial date set for January 18-19th 2024 
  • ADF UK supporting Smith-Connor’s defence

  • DORSET (16TH November 2023) – Poole Magistrates’ Court has postponed today’s hearing in the case of Adam Smith-Connor, the army veteran criminally charged for praying silently for a few minutes in a Bournemouth  abortion facility “buffer zone”. 

    The hearing scheduled for today will now take place on 18th January, immediately before the criminal trial.

    Members of the public are invited to support to Smith-Connor’s legal defense here.

    At today’s hearing, the defence, supported by ADF UK, planned to ask the court to dismiss the prosecution on the basis of unfairness. Adam had been assured by police officers that praying silently in that location was legal, only a week before he was charged for doing so. The defence also would have raised concerns about the council’s prosecutorial independence, noting in particular that the initial decision not to prosecute Adam was reversed only after pressure from the relevant abortion provider.    

    “It’s disappointing that this abuse of fundamental freedoms has been allowed to drag on, with today’s hearing now postponed to January. While the judge referred to the complexities of the case as the reason for postponing, we must remember that the facts of Adam’s case are really very simple—he is being criminally charged for his silent prayer. It is most unfortunate that this lengthy and grueling process is continuing to impact Adam’s life, for only having prayed in his head. 

    Despite this setback, we remain committed to supporting Adam’s legal defence and his basic human rights, including the right to think freely on a public street without interference from authorities, at the new trial date. 

    It is deeply concerning for local councils to have the power to prosecute residents for alleged ‘thoughtcrimes’ in a free society,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK. 

    Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council has so far run up legal fees – charged to the public purse – in excess of £25k to prosecute an offence carrying a maximum fine of £1k.   

    This comes despite a recent warning from the Council in August that, “tough budget decisions are needed” in order to avoid bankruptcy, with council chief executive Graham Farrant pointing to a £45m gap in its £300m annual budget alongside depleted reserves. 

    I’m disappointed that the court postponed my hearing today, and I will have to wait over Christmas to make clear in court that I have committed no crime by way of my silent prayer. I still can’t believe that in England in 2023, I have to face criminal prosecution for what I thought in my own mind. Even if freedom prevails eventually, this process, now drawn out even further, has been punishing. I served in the army reserves for twenty years, including in Afghanistan, to protect fundamental freedoms – I never thought I’d have to defend such a basic right for myself here at home.  

    Nevertheless, I thank the friends, fellow veterans, community residents and Christians who came out to the court to support me this morning, and those around the world who have been praying and contributing financially to my defence via my crowdfunder. With support from the team at ADF UK, I’ll be preparing for trial in January, where I hope the verdict makes clear that thought is not a criminal offence,” said Adam Smith-Connor, upon receiving the news.  

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