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Isabel’s punishment ends after police drop all charges

22 September 2023

Following a six-month investigation, West Midlands Police have confirmed that they will not bring charges against Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, issuing an apology for the length of time to reach the decision not to prosecute her for silent prayer.

The charitable volunteer was arrested for praying in a “buffer zone” surrounding an abortion facility on Station Road, Birmingham, on 6th March. The censorship zone, introduced by local authorities via a “Public Spaces Protection Order,” bans prayer, amongst other activities considered to constitute protest against abortion. The full text is available here.

The arrest caught worldwide attention in a viral video, in which police accused Vaughan-Spruce of committing an offence by silently praying in her own mind: “you’ve said you’ve been engaging in prayer, which is the offence”.


09 August 2023

Adam Smith-Connor pleads “not guilty”

Adam Smith-Connor, army veteran and father, has pled “not guilty” to charges related to breaking a local “buffer zone” regulation by praying silently, in his mind.

“We are standing in the nation of the Magna Carta, the nation which has championed democracy and freedom. We have a history of upholding human rights we can be proud of, and a respect for freedom that I fought to uphold when I served this country for twenty years in the army reserves, including in Afghanistan. Yet here I stand before you on the steps of Poole Magistrates Court being prosecuted – for a thought crime.

The facts of my case are clear. I am accused of breaching an abortion clinic buffer zone by praying for my son Jacob and other victims of abortion, for their families and for abortion clinic staff on Ophir Road Bournemouth. I did not approach anyone, I did not speak to anyone, I did not breach any one’s privacy. I simply stood silently. I am being tried for the prayerful thoughts I held in my head,” said Adam Smith-Connor upon exiting the court.

Read more here.

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“Nobody should be criminalised for what they believe – especially not when they express that belief silently, in the privacy of their own minds. I’m glad that, in my case, common-sense policing won the day. However, it’s not right that I had to wait anxiously for a full six months for the authorities to determine my fate. The process, in essence, became my punishment."
Adam Smith-Connor
Army veteran & father
Permitted within the Area
West Midlands Police conceded that charity volunteer, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, is now “permitted within the area” after three months of onerous bail conditions that prevented her from attending the “buffer zone” outside an abortion facility in Birmingham.
What's Next?
West Midlands Police informed Isabel that the case was with the CPS to consider prosecution, rather than the local authority.
Varied Bail Conditions
West Midlands Police again conceded that the bail conditions were disproportionate and varied them to ensure the ban only applied to the PSPO-related restricted area.
Prosecution Considered
West Midlands Police informed Isabel that the case had been referred to the local authority to consider prosecution.
Arrested Again
Isabel prayed silently, as she had done previously, and was again arrested. She received no explanation for why she was being arrested for the same conduct that CPS and the court had only just clarified to be within the law.
Pursuing Court
Isabel pursued a court verdict and all the charges against her were dismissed by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
Insufficient Evidence
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) informed Birmingham Magistrates’ Court that there was insufficient evidence to continue with a prosecution on all four counts.
Unnecessary Conditions
West Midlands Police varied the bail conditions to ensure the ban only applied to the PSPO-related restricted area. Isabel was charged with four counts of breaching the PSPO. All counts related to instances of silent prayer.
Isabel Arrested
Isabel was arrested for silently and unobtrusively praying within the vicinity of a closed abortion facility in Birmingham. Police officers conducted a search through her hair, before detaining and interrogating her at length about the nature of her prayers and thoughts.
5 June 2023
31 May 2023
14 April 2023
6 April 2023
6 March 2023
16 February 2023
23 January 2023
15 December 2022
6 December 2022
07 March 2023

UK Parliament introduces first “thought-crime” into law. 

Members of the UK Parliament have approved the introduction of censorship zones (also known as “buffer zones”) outside of abortion facilities across England and Wales.

“Today’s vote marks a watershed moment for fundamental rights and freedoms in our country. Parliament had an opportunity to reject the criminalisation of free thought, which is an absolute right, and embrace individual liberty for all. Instead, Parliament chose to endorse censorship and criminalise peaceful activities such as silent prayer and consensual conversation,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK, the legal organisation working to promote fundamental freedoms.

“Today it’s abortion. Tomorrow it could be another contested matter of political debate. The principle remains that the government should never be able to punish anyone for prayer, let alone silent prayer, and peaceful and consensual conversation. Thankfully, where the clause initially called for a prison sentence for those convicted of engaging in these peaceful activities near abortion facilities, the penalty now has been reduced to a fine. Nevertheless, it is extremely regrettable that Parliament, which exists to protect and champion the rights of the electorate, has taken a clear stance against fundamental freedoms, opening the door for nationwide thought-crime prosecution,” he continued.

More to read here.

06 March 2023

Charity volunteer arrested for a second time over silent prayer “thought crime” near an abortion facility, despite being cleared after being arrested and charged for similar allegations 3 weeks ago.

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“Only three weeks ago, the Court made clear that my silent prayers were not a crime. And yet, again, I have been arrested and treated like a criminal for having the exact same thoughts in my head, in the same location. The ambiguity of laws that limit free expression and thought – even in peaceful, consensual conversation or in silent, internal prayer – leads to abject confusion, to the detriment of our essential fundamental rights. Nobody should be criminalised for their thoughts,” said Isabel Vaughan-Spruce.

“Parliament’s introduction of censorship zones across the country today will mean that many more innocent people like Isabel Vaughan-Spruce will be unjustly criminalised for their silent thoughts, or for peacefully offering leaflets about charitable help available to women who might want to hear about other options. In the name of choice, these zones actually eliminate the options available to women. A free society should never prohibit the peaceful exchange of information,” commented Igunnubole. 

Read here about how it all started.

16 February 2023

Fr. Sean and Isabel Vaughan-Spruce were acquitted of their charges by the court.

“I’m pleased that I’ve been cleared of all charges today and to have cleared my name,” says Fr. Sean.

“I’m glad I’ve been vindicated of any wrongdoing. But I should never have been arrested for my thoughts and treated like a criminal simply for silently praying on a public street.” Vaughan-Spruce made the following statement outside the court

Both Isabel and Fr Sean were supported by ADF UK, a charity committed to protecting and promoting fundamental freedoms.

Fr. Sean und Auto
Their Stories

#1 - Isabel Vaughan-Spruce

The charity volunteer and the Priest on trial for praying in an abortion facility censorship zone have both been acquitted of all charges in a ruling handed down by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on 16 February.

In late 2022, police approached Isabel Vaughan-Spruce standing near the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham.

Vaughan-Spruce was not protesting. She wasn’t carrying a sign or engaging with anyone. She was completely silent until approached by officers who had received complaints that she may be praying silently in her mind.

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Isabel’s physical presence in the public space protection order (PSPO) area wasn’t a crime in itself; it was the contents of her private thoughts that were prohibited. If Isabel had stood in the same place thinking about another topic, she would not have been arrested.

“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. Nobody 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, following her arrest for silent prayer.

Isabel is the Director of the UK March for Life and has volunteered for many years in support of women in crisis pregnancies. She has tirelessly served her community by providing charitable assistance to vulnerable women and children, and yet, she is being treated no better than a violent criminal because of her private thoughts.

She was arrested again in March. Read here for more details.

#2 - Father Sean Gough

Father Sean Gough was charged for praying within the same censorship zone in Birmingham. He remained silent, but made his intentions clear by holding a sign reading “praying for free speech”. A further charge related to parking his car, which for some time has had on it a small “unborn lives matter” bumper sticker, within the same area.

For peacefully supporting free speech within the censorship zone, Father Sean Gough was charged with “intimidating service-users” of the abortion facility. This was despite the fact that all this happened while the abortion facility was closed.

“I stand by my beliefs – unborn lives do matter. But whatever your views are on abortion, we can all agree that a democratic country cannot be in the business of prosecuting thought crimes.” says Fr. Sean.

Father Sean was acquitted of all charges in March 2023.

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#3 - Adam Smith-Connor

Army veteran, Adam Smith-Connor, is challenging a council fine, based on him saying: “I’m praying for my son, who is deceased.”

We’ve already seen Isabel, a charity volunteer, arrested and charged for silently praying near an abortion facility. Now we’re assisting Adam, a father who has been fined by local authorities.

His offence? Praying for his son, who died as a result of abortion 22 years ago, near an abortion facility in Bournemouth, England.

Like Isabel, Adam was standing still and silent on the public street for a few minutes before he was approached by community safety-accredited officers.

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ADF International Austria gemeinnützige GmbH
IBAN: AT45 2011 1829 1208 6402, BIC: GIBAATWW
Payment Reference: ‘Support ADF International – FOT’