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Grandmother awaits justice after being arrested for prayer walk during lockdown

  • 76-year-old Rosa Lalor was arrested and fined during 2021 lockdown for being outside without a “reasonable excuse”
  • Lalor, who was masked, walking alone and praying silently as part of her daily exercise, is challenging the charge with support of ADF UK

LIVERPOOL (13 April 2022) – Can a silent, peaceful prayer be a criminal act? This is the question facing the court as it considers the penalty that Rosa Lalor received when on a prayer walk during lockdown in 2021.

“I never thought that in a democratic country like the UK I would be arrested for a simple and solitary prayer walk. When I was walking outdoors, I was praying in the privacy of my own mind. What kind of society are we, when people can be arrested simply for peacefully manifesting their faith in public?”, said Rosa Lalor.

“I have always respected the law and never wished to be involved in legal action, but having been fined simply for praying whilst walking, I know this is an important challenge to take forward. With support from ADF UK, I’m taking a stand to protect fundamental freedoms for all people,” she continued.

Severe court delays have prevented the case from moving forward after Lalor pled “not guilty” to the charge. This leaves the charge hanging over her throughout the Easter season. Members of the public are invited to leave a message of support for Lalor here.

Penalty for a Prayer

Rosa Lalor walked and prayed almost every day during the 2021 lockdown as part of the daily exercise permitted by the regulations at the time. She walked near an abortion facility, as she prayed about the issue that was on her mind. She was masked, socially-distanced, alone. She prayed silently, wearing headphones.

When approached by a police officer on 24 February 2021, Lalor was questioned as to why she was outdoors. Lalor answered that she was “walking and praying”. The officer responded that Lalor wasn’t praying in a house of worship, and that she did not have a “reasonable excuse” to be outdoors at that time. The officer claimed that Lalor was there to “protest”. She was arrested, detained in a police car, charged and fined £200 under temporary coronavirus measures.

“The right to express faith in a public space, including silent prayer – is a fundamental right protected in both domestic and international law. Whether under coronavirus regulations or any other law, it is the duty of police to uphold, rather than erode, the rights and freedoms of women like Rosa. Such arrests subject otherwise law-abiding individuals to distressing and drawn-out criminal proceedings, leading to a chilling effect on freedom of expression and religion generally,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK, which is supporting Rosa’s case.

“From the repeated wrongful arrests of street preachers to the denial of last rites for Sir David Amess, police officers have repeatedly shown that they are failing to strike the balance between tackling genuine criminal behaviour and upholding fundamental rights. Rosa’s story highlights the need for better training within the police force on how to strike such a balance. We are pleased to stand alongside her in seeking justice,” he continued.

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