Police apologise to arrested pro-life volunteer
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, Co-CEO of March for Life UK was arrested for praying silently in an abortion clinic 'buffer zone' this March. She was waiting for months to find out whether authorities will prosecute her.
At her arrest near an abortion clinic in Birmingham on 6 March, officers told Mrs Vaughan-Spruce “You’ve said you’ve been engaging in prayer, which is the offence”.
She was taken into custody weeks after a court cleared her of all charges in an unrelated but similar case associated with silent prayer.
Mrs Vaughan-Spruce accepted the apology from West Midlands Police. “This isn’t 1984, but 2023 – I should never have been arrested or investigated simply for the thoughts I held in my own mind. Silent prayer is never criminal. I welcome West Midland Police’s decision to end their investigation and their apology for the time it took to do so, but it’s important to highlight the extremely harmful implications of this ordeal not just for myself, but for everyone concerned with fundamental freedoms in the UK. What happened to me signals to others that they too could face arrest, interrogation, investigation, and potential prosecution if caught exercising their basic freedom of thought. Now that authorities have twice settled on the conclusion that silent prayer is not a crime – a conclusion also reached by the Home Secretary last week – I am thankful to resume my practice of praying silently for women in crisis pregnancies.”
According to her solicitor, Jeremiah Igunnubole of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF UK): “The arduous process of this criminal ordeal has been the punishment for Isabel. Moreover, her story has put the world on notice that fundamental freedoms are vulnerable in the UK. There is now an urgent need for legal changes to stem the tide of policing by politics. We hope the decision from West Midlands Police that they will not prosecute free thought, alongside the Home Secretary’s public commitment to protecting silent prayer, will be reflected in legislation, guidance, and practice.”
Following the decision, Home Secretary Suella Braverman sent an open letter to police defining that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful” and “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence.”