- Crown Prosecution Service drop charges, but make clear that they could be reinstated and prosecuted at a later date
- Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, committed to defending her actions and to continuing her volunteer work of many years without fear of prosecution, has stated her intention to pursue a verdict in court
BIRMINGHAM (3 February 2023) – The charitable volunteer who was criminally charged for praying near a closed abortion facility will continue to await justice as she states her intention to pursue full dismissal of her charges in court.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was seen in a viral video being arrested and humiliatingly searched by three police officers after saying that she “might be” praying inside her head, was criminally charged with “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users” in a censorship zone around the abortion facility on Station Road in Birmingham. This was despite Vaughan-Spruce stating clearly on video that she was not protesting, and despite the clinic being closed, meaning no service users were in the vicinity while she prayed.
The censorship zone was instated by local authorities by a Public Space Protection Order, which bans activities which it defines as “protest”, including prayer, in the streets surrounding the abortion facility.
CPS have now communicated that they have discontinued the charges against Vaughan-Spruce, yet also have made clear that the charges “may well start again” in the near future subject to further evidential review. This is a warning prosecutors can issue when they expect that further evidence will be received.
However, in view of the authorisation of charges and the stage of proceedings, CPS has informed Vaughan-Spruce of her right to seek a verdict.
Vaughan-Spruce intends to seek clear verdict in court
Given the nature of Vaughan-Spruce’s regular voluntary work in offering charitable support to women in crisis pregnancies near abortion facilities, the discontinuance has left her with significant legal unclarity moving forward, given that CPS made clear that the charges “may well start again” in the near future subject to further evidential review.
Vaughan-Spruce has now made known her intention to pursue a verdict in court. Her first hearing date is yet to be set.
“It can’t be right that I was arrested and made a criminal, only for praying in my head on a public street. So-called “buffer zone legislation” will result in so many more people like me, doing good and legal activities like offering charitable support to women in crisis pregnancies, or simply praying in their heads, being treated like criminals and even facing court. It’s important to me that I can continue my vital work in supporting women who’d like to avoid abortion if they only had some help. In order to do so, it’s vital that I have clarity as to my legal status. Many of us need an answer as to whether it’s still lawful to pray silently in our own heads. That’s why I’ll be pursuing a verdict regarding my charges in court,” explained Isabel Vaughan-Spruce.
“Isabel is right to request proper clarity as to the lawfulness of our actions. It’s one thing for the authorities to humiliatingly search and arrest an individual simply for their thoughts. It’s quite another to initially deem those thoughts to be sufficient evidence to justify charges, then discontinue those charges due to ‘insufficient evidence’, and then to warn that further evidence relating to the already unclear charges may soon be forthcoming so as to restart the entire grueling process from the beginning. This is a clear instance of the process becoming the punishment creating a chilling effect on free expression and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. ADF UK remain committed to supporting Isabel’s pursuit because no one should fear prosecution for silent prayer and thoughts in the privacy of their mind,” commented Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK.