This is the moment police told a Catholic woman that ‘praying is an offence’ as she was arrested a second time outside an abortion clinic just weeks after being acquitted for the same offence.
Footage of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, 45, director of anti-abortion group March for Life UK, being arrested outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham, has emerged online.
Officers can be heard asking 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’.
The officer responds: ‘But you’ve said you’re engaging in prayer, which is the offence’, to which she replies: ‘Silent prayer.’
Footage of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, 45, being arrested for a second time outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham, has emerged online
West Midlands Police confirmed a 45-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of breaching a public space protection order (PSPO) yesterday
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.’
Ms 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 (right) pictured outside Birmingham Magistrates’ Court with Father Sean Gough last month
According to ADF UK, a charity committed to protecting freedom of expression which have campaigned against the buffer zones, Ms Vaughan-Spruce has been subject to bail conditions prohibiting her from going near the abortion facility.
What are PSPOs and how do they stop protests around abortion centres?
Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) are designed to allow local councils to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Councils were given the power to enforce them in 2014 through section 59 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.
The authority lists the activity that is banned within a particular geographical area, with a £100 initial fine rising to £1,000 if it goes to court.
MPs have also introduced buffer zones around abortion clinics following an amendment to the Public Order Bill.
This makes it an offence to intimidate or harass anyone within 150 metres of the buildings.
Anyone found guilty of breaching the zone to intimidate, threaten or persuade women will face a fine or six months’ imprisonment, increasing to two years for repeat offences.
The law change came out over concerns about councils being sued by anti-abortion campaigners challenging PSPOs.
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.’
Buffer zones make it an offence to intimate or harass anyone within 150 metres of an abortion clinics and were introduced as an amendment to the Public Order Bill last year.
The exclusion zones are areas around clinics where certain abortion-specific harassment such a displaying graphic signs, following and filming women, and repeatedly approaching women and doctors are not allowed.
The UK’s first buffer zone was introduced around an abortion clinic in Ealing, west London, in 2018.
Buffer zones have been hailed by pro-choice campaigners as an important step towards de-stigmatising abortion and preventing harassment of those who attend abortion clinics.
However, critics see them as an attack on freedom of expression.
MPs are set to debate today on the rollout of buffer zones across the England and Wales.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk