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Rosa Lalor was arrested for praying silently during coronavirus lockdown

Grandmother arrested for taking a prayer walk during lockdown

Grandmother arrested for taking a prayer walk during lockdown

#LetUsPray

#LetUsPray

Who:
Rosa Lalor

Where:
Liverpool, United Kingdom

Advocacy Team:
Jeremiah Igunnubole

Topic | Freedom of Religion

Can a silent, peaceful prayer be a criminal act?

Not according to the case of 76-year-old grandmother Rosa Lalor, from Liverpool, who successfully challenged the penalty with support from ADF UK, while out walking and silently praying near an abortion facility. Merseyside Police have now conceded that her arrest was wrong and that Lalor was acting within her rights, indeed having a “reasonable excuse” to be outdoors praying.

Who:
Rosa Lalor

Where:
Liverpool, United Kingdom

Advocacy Team:
Jeremiah Igunnubole

ADF UK ROSA WITH JEREMIAH IGUNNUBOLE

“I never thought that in a democratic country like the UK I would be arrested for a simple and solitary prayer walk...

What kind of society are we, when people can be arrested simply for peacefully manifesting their faith in public?”

Case Summary

During the lockdown in 2021, Rosa was always careful to follow the rules. She took a walk most days, as was permitted, and even wore a mask, which wasn’t required, in order to take extra precautions.

While she was taking a prayer walk near an abortion facility on 24th February 2021 – alone, masked, socially distanced, and praying silently with headphones in – a police officer approached her and asked why she was out of her house, at a time when reasons to be outside were very limited.

“I’m walking and praying”, she answered.

The officer said Rosa wasn’t praying in a place of worship. She didn’t have a “reasonable excuse” to be outdoors. She was there to “protest”, he said.

Rosa was arrested, detained in a police car, charged and fined £200 under a temporary coronavirus regulatory measure that sought to ban activities on the street for the sake of public health.

“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.

Nobody should be criminalised simply for expressing their faith.

“I’m delighted that the prosecution has finally dropped this charge after a long and exhausting battle for justice. I took this challenge forward with support from ADF UK to show that we do all have a fundamental right to pray – not least pray as I did, in the privacy of my own mind. It was wrong for the police officer to tell me that I could not pray in a public street. It’s important for officers to respect basic religious freedom, and improve their understanding of how that right manifests, in order to maintain a truly tolerant society,” commented Lalor.

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