Magistrates clear pro-lifers of all charges

Pro-life campaigners arrested for silently praying near an abortion centre in Birmingham have been fully vindicated.

During hearings at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, the judge dismissed cases brought against Isabel Vaughan-Spruce and Roman Catholic priest Sean Gough, after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to provide any evidence and dropped the charges.

The Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in force around the centre prohibits individuals from “engaging in any act of approval or disapproval” in relation to abortion, including “prayer or counselling”.


Vaughan-Spruce, the Director of March for Life UK, was searched and arrested after the police received a complaint that she might be praying within a council-imposed censorship zone in the City.

She was charged with “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users”, despite the centre being closed at the time.

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On a separate occasion, Gough was arrested and charged under the same PSPO for holding a sign that said “praying for free speech” and displaying a car sticker stating “unborn lives matter”.

Although the CPS decided not to pursue prosecutions in both instances, Vaughan-Spruce and Gough sought clarity through the courts after the public body threatened it could pursue the charges in the future.


Responding to the verdict, Vaughan-Spruce said: “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.”

Gough, also grateful that his name had been cleared, said: “I stand by my beliefs – unborn lives do matter.”

He continued: “whatever your views are on abortion, we can all agree that a democratic country cannot be in the business of prosecuting thought crimes.”

I should never have been arrested for my thoughts and treated like a criminal simply for silently praying on a public street.


Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the organisation supporting both Miss Vaughan-Spruce and Fr Gough, welcomed the outcome.

But he warned, “our parliament is considering rolling out censorial legislation, which could lead to more situations where people’s thoughts are on trial.”

He concluded: “In the UK, freedom of thought, prayer, offers of help, and peaceful conversation are not illegal and we call on Parliament to reject the creation of more censorship zones through vaguely worded public order legislation.”

Also see:


Abortion lobby attacks appointment of Minister with pro-life views

Death threats levelled at young pro-life campaigner

RC Archbishop decries censorship of ‘respectful pro-life witness’ in NI

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