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Bail conditions eased for UK woman in silent prayer case

Woman praying silently, smiling

Ivana P. Nikolic | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 04/19/23

After her second arrest, bail conditions set for Isabel Vaughan-Spruce were found to be "disproportionate and unnecessary."

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The court agreed to relax the bail conditions for the release of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the UK woman who has now been arrested twice in the span of five months for silently praying while too close to an abortion facility. While the lifted restrictions are a welcome victory to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization that represents Vaughan-Spruce, she is still awaiting her day in court for this second “offense.” 

Aleteia previously reported that Isabel was first arrested in late December 2022. The 45-year-old pro-life volunteer was standing silently with no signs or visible rhetoric when she was approached by police officers. When she revealed that she “might” have been praying silently in her own head, she was taken into custody and charged with breaking the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), which prohibits demonstrations within a 150 meter radius of abortion facilities. 

In early March, just weeks after she was cleared of all charges, Vaughan-Spruce was arrested again on the same charges, in nearly the same spot. After being charged once again with breaking the PSPO, Isabel was released on bail, but this began another legal battle, as the conditions of her bail were viewed by ADF as “extensive.”

A report from ADF explains that the bail conditions prohibited Isabel’s presence in a much larger area than the intended buffer zone around the facility. This area included Vaughan-Spruce’s parish church, where she leads a group of volunteers in prayer and charitable support throughout Lent. These restrictions prevented her from attending events related to her faith life as well as her services to her religious community. 

According to ADF, Vaughan-Spruce’s legal team submitted that the conditions were “unlawful and effected in this case for an improper purpose.”

They argued that “interference with witnesses” grounds for the bail conditions were “disingenuous” and “imposed for an ulterior motive.” The team’s arguments have successfully seen these bail conditions relaxed, with the court acknowledging that the ban beyond the buffer zone was a “disproportionate and unnecessary” restriction on her freedom in relation to the allegations of a “relatively simple” crime. 

Vaughan-Spruce commented on the change, lamenting that police have been allowed to act as “judge, jury and executioner” on matters regarding the PSPO. She said: 

“I’m glad to see some measure of justice restored to proceedings that had imposed excessive burdens on my everyday life. Nobody should be criminalized for the thoughts that they hold in their head. After my first arrest, a court found that my actions did not result in a crime and that I was completely innocent. Yet, I find myself arrested yet again, for the same activity – simply praying, silently.”

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce added, “By imposing such arduous and far-reaching restrictions as my bail conditions, police officers ensured that the process became my punishment, even before I have been tried following this second arrest.”

Read more at ADF.

Tags:
LawPrayerPro-lifeUnited Kingdom
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