Police in Birmingham, England, have cited a woman for praying silently near an abortion clinic for a third time, even though Britain’s top legal officer has said such actions are legal.
Isabel Vaughn-Spruce was questioned by West Midlands Police on Oct. 18 and given a ticket indicating she would be fined for her actions. Earlier this year, she was vindicated in court over an arrest for violating a Public Spaces Protection Order meant to deter protests at places such as clinics.
“The UK government urgently needs to clarify that silent thoughts can never be illegal — even if those thoughts are in disagreement with the views of the State. This is the third time I have been treated like a criminal for peacefully, silently, and imperceptibly praying for women who are likely facing one of the worst days of their lives,” Ms. Vaughan-Spruce said in a statement.
In September, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman told the nation’s police forces: “[I]t is worth remembering that silent prayer, in itself, is not unlawful.” Ms. Braverman, a Conservative member of Parliament, said citizens were concerned about the politicization of the nation’s police forces.
Ms. Vaughn-Spruce was vindicated in February for an arrest in late 2022 for the same offense. In September, the Crown Prosecution Service declined to prosecute her arrest in March for silent prayer near an abortion clinic.
Ms. Vaughn-Spruce received a ticket even though she said was not protesting.
“It’s not for authorities to determine the thoughts in the privacy of an individual’s mind. Yet the PCSO officer saw fit to pry into the content of Isabel’s private prayers, and inquire as to her membership of a pro-life organization — neither of which are criminal acts,” said Barrister Lorcàn Price, an ADF UK legal counsel.
Critics of the police moves have called them prosecutions for “thoughtcrimes,” a term borrowed from “1984,” a dystopian novel by George Orwell.
The Washington Times has contacted West Midlands Police for comment.
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