Police have confirmed that no charges will be brought against a pro-life volunteer who was arrested for praying silently within an abortion clinic ‘buffer zone’.
West Midlands Police have also apologised to Isabel Vaughan-Spruce for the length of time it took to come to their decision.
Vaughan-Spruce waited months following her arrest in March to find out if she was going to be prosecuted.
She was arrested near an abortion clinic in Birmingham on 6 March, when she was told by officers “you’ve said you’ve been engaging in prayer, which is the offence”.
Her arrest occurred just weeks after a court cleared her of all charges in a separate but similar case relating to silent prayer.
Vaughan-Spruce welcomed 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,” she said.
“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.”
The decision follows an open letter to police from Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier this month, clarifying that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful” and that, “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence”.
Vaughan-Spruce continued, “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.”
Her legal counsel, Jeremiah Igunnubole of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF UK), said, “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.”