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UK Police tell Catholic Woman ‘Praying is an Offence’

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Vaughan-Spruce was confronted by police when she was standing on the street outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham, on December 6

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, 45, was arrested outside an abortion clinic on Monday and she told officers she was engaged in ‘silent prayer’.

This was the second time weeks after she was cleared of any wrongdoing for silently praying in ‘exclusion zone’ outside an abortion clinic.

Video shared online shows Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, director of anti-abortion group March for Life UK, being arrested outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham.

Officers ask Ms Vaughan-Spruce to ‘step outside the exclusion zone’ that exists around the clinic. However, she tells officers that she is ‘not protesting’ and ‘not engaging in any of the activities prohibited’.

Police respond: ‘But you’ve said you’re engaging in prayer, which is the offence’, to which she replies: ‘Silent prayer.’

The officer then says, ‘No, but you were still engaging in prayer. It is an offence’, to which Ms Vaughan-Spruce answered: ‘I disagree.’

She was then arrested by six officers.

In a statement through her legal representatives, ADF UK, Ms Vaughan-Spruce said: ‘Only three weeks ago, it was made clear by the court that my silent prayers were not a crime.

‘And yet, again, I have been arrested and treated as 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 important fundamental rights. Nobody should be criminalised for their thoughts.’

According to ADF UK, a charity committed to protecting freedom of expression that has campaigned against the buffer zones – areas around clinics cordoned off from anti-abortion campaigners – Ms Vaughan-Spruce has been subject to bail conditions prohibiting her from going near the abortion facility.

West Midlands Police confirmed a 45-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of breaching a public space protection order (PSPO) yesterday, following complaints from members of the public.

They said: ‘The woman was advised to leave the area, and refused, before being issued with a fixed penalty notice. When she refused to leave again, she was arrested.

‘She has now been bailed while statements are taken from residents and people working in the area.’

The force added: ‘This order was put in place by a court, following a joint application from West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council, to protect women from harassment by any means if they are seeking a medical procedure or advice at an abortion clinic.

‘It is our role to enforce the PSPO and reassure those it was designed to protect.’

The arrest comes just weeks after she was found not guilty by Birmingham Magistrates Court for silently praying outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham, on December 6.

Her arrest sparked a fierce debate, with supporters saying she was effectively arrested for ‘thoughtcrime’, a term which ADF UK used – but she was cleared of all charges.

Following her not guilty verdict, Ms Vaughan-Spruce said in a statement outside court: ‘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.’

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