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Prayer Near Abortion Clinics Not A Crime In UK – Home Secretary Tells Police 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has announced that silent prayer near abortion facilities is not a crime in the UK.

She has written to every police force in the country to clarify that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful”.

Her intervention should end the harassment and arrest of innocent Christians suspected of “thought crimes” in the vicinity of abortion clinics.

The letter further reminded officers that “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence”.

The clarification was welcomed by Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a Catholic who has been arrested twice in the past 10 months for praying silently near a Birmingham abortion clinic.

She said: “It is not for the Government to determine my beliefs on abortion, my beliefs that women deserve better support, nor police the faith that I hold in my own mind. I’m delighted to see the Home Secretary clarify to police that it is not a crime to pray inside your own mind.

“This is a basic tenet of a free democracy – yet I have been arrested twice for doing no more than that.”

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, the legal organisation that has represented a three Christians arrested by police while quietly and peacefully at prayer near clinics when they were closed.

Mr Igunnubole said: “The Government’s focus on restoring common sense to British policing is welcome and long overdue. Too often, of late, arrests have been justified by reference to subjective notions of offence rather than an objective application of the law.

“Politicised policing seriously threatens democracy, which relies on the right to freedom of speech and free and frank exchange of viewpoints to be effectively realised. If Isabel had been shouting loudly about climate change on the street where she stood, there would have been no arrest.

“But because her silent, personal thoughts expressed a particular view on abortion – one that is not approved of by the authorities – she was arrested, dragged through the courts, found innocent, re-arrested, and now has been waiting months with a possible court case looming over her while authorities take their time to decide whether her thoughts were allegedly ‘criminal’.

“The Crown Prosecution Service, the Magistrates, and the Home Secretary have rightly concluded that silent prayer is not unlawful. Freedom of thought is an absolute right.

“Yet this basic fact, supported by domestic and international law, has not been brought to bear by West Midlands Police and Bournemouth City Council, who have sought to criminalise Isabel Vaughan Spruce and Adam Smith-Connor, respectively, for nothing other than praying in their minds.

“There is now an urgent need for legal changes to stem the trend of policing by politics and return to policing by consent. We hope the Home Secretary’s public commitment to tackling the issue will be brought to bear in legislation and guidance,”

Fr Sean Gough, a Wolverhampton priest, was criminally tried for silently praying in the Birmingham “buffer zone”.

The priest, who has been involved in supporting a counselling ministry for post-abortive women, was also charged for praying for freedom of speech and having a small bumper sticker affixed to his car within the zone, reading “unborn lives matter”. 

His case was dismissed by a judge in February.

A father and Afghanistan Veteran is presently being prosecuted for praying on a street near a Bournemouth abortion clinic.

Adam Smith-Connor entered a “not guilty” plea when he appeared at Poole Magistrates Court in August. A criminal trial has been set for November 16.

The Government passed legislation in March to introduce “buffer zones” across the country, which would ban “influence” outside all abortion facilities in England and Wales.

A “buffer zones” Bill for exclusion zones to be rolled out around every abortion clinic in Scotland has the support of the ruling Scottish National Party.

The Home Secretary’s letter to the police force comes as public confidence in policing hits a low, with Ipsos polling revealing this summer that more people rate the current standard of policing in Britain as bad (36 per cent) than good (31 per cent).



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