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NEW: Details of charges against silently praying charity volunteer now public – prayer deemed “intimidating”

  • Isabel Vaughan-Spruce has been charged with “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users” on account of her SILENT PRAYER in abortion facility “buffer zone” – while the abortion facility was closed 
  • Viral video shows Vaughan-Spruce searched, arrested after being asked “are you praying” by three police officers 

 Public appeal launched by ADF UK – Support Isabel: 

BIRMINGHAM (30th December 2022) – After a video of a charity volunteer’s arrest outside of an abortion facility went viral this month, further details have emerged as to the nature of the charges that she now faces. 

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, 45, was standing still and silently when police approached her. When asked what she was doing, she clarified that she was not protesting, but “might be” praying inside her mind.  

She was searched, arrested, interrogated, and charged on four counts for breaking the so-called “buffer zone” around a Birmingham abortion facility. The full text of the local Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), banning prayer, among other activities considered to constitute protest, as part of the censorial “buffer zone” is available here. The terms of the PSPO define protest as including prayer, and also prohibit any act or attempted act of intimidation. 

The abortion facility was closed each time that Vaughan-Spruce chose to pray since the introduction of the “buffer zone” in November. Furthermore, she had made clear to the arresting officers that she was not there to protest. It was only after police inferred that she might be praying in her head, per her admission, that she was arrested. It thus follows that Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for silent prayer as a form of protest under the PSPO.

Despite only praying silently within her mind, Vaughan-Spruce was subsequently charged with “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users”.

Based on the charges, the act of standing silently was also deemed “intimidating” behaviour, even though the abortion facility was closed and there was no discernible subject of this intimidation, and despite her clear admission that she was not there to protest. 


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Vaughan-Spruce will face court on 2nd February. ADF UK are supporting her defense. 

Arrested for a “thoughtcrime” 

“Nobody should be arrested because of their silent thoughts. Isabel has been clear that all she had done in the PSPO zone since it was instituted in November was to pray, silently, in the privacy of her own mind. Had police not asked her what she was doing, and had she not let them know that she “might” be praying in her mind, there are no grounds under which she would have been charged for breaking the PSPO,” explained Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, supporting Isabel Vaughan-Spruce. 

“If Isabel had been loudly campaigning against climate change on the street, she would not have been charged for breaking the PSPO.  But it appears that the police have now charged her solely on the basis of her admissions that she prayed silently, raising her thoughts about abortion to God in her mind. We are in wholly unprecedented territory if individuals are now being prosecuted for their thoughts, and if peaceful, silent prayer in a public space is now interpreted as “intimidating”. Somewhere along the line we have taken our eyes off the ball – our robust legal tradition of protecting civil liberties has been replaced with routine and cavalier violations of freedom of speech and belief, and now even freedom of thought,”  he continued. 

Vaughan-Spruce has spoken of her experience on GB News: 

“It’s abhorrently wrong that I was searched, arrested, interrogated by police, and charged simply for praying in the privacy of my own mind. Censorship zones purport to ban harassment, which is already illegal and I condemn wholeheartedlyNobody should ever be subject to harassment. But what I did was the furthest thing from harmful – I was exercising my freedom of thought, my freedom of religion, inside the privacy of my own mind. Nobody should be criminalised for thinking and for praying, in a public space in the UK,” said Isabel Vaughan-Spruce.

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