Adam Smith-Connor has pleaded "not guilty", to charges related to breaking a local ‘buffer zone’ around an abortion clinic, and praying silently outside the medical facility. He was approached by police outside the clinic on Orphir Road, Bournemouth earlier this year.
Five councils across the UK have implemented active “buffer zones” banning prayer and offers of charitable help to women on the public streets near abortion facilities, since the UK parliament passed legislation in March.
Mr Smith-Connor was under the impression he would not be prosecuted, as the statutory time-limit for pressing charges had already elapsed. He delivered an emotional speech following a the plea hearing on Wednesday morning:
“We are standing in the nation of the Magna Carta, the nation which has championed democracy and freedom. We have a history of upholding human rights we can be proud of, and a respect for freedom that I fought to uphold when I served this country for twenty years in the army reserves, including in Afghanistan. Yet here I stand before you... being prosecuted – for a thought crime."
In the past Smith-Connor acknowledges paying for an ex-girlfriend to have an abortion – a decision how now says he regrets.
ADF-UK lawyers are supporting his case and were present in court.
It's not the first time someone has been prosecuted for silent prayer in the UK. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested for praying in her head in similar circumstances earlier this year, attended the Hearing at Poole Magistrates Court to support Adam.
In a viral video in December, Vaughan-Spruce was seen being searched and arrested by three police officers after saying that she “might be” praying inside her head. She was later found not guilty by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
Smith-Conner is being charged under Public Spaces Protection Order, which forbids “expressions of approval or disapproval” of abortion on several streets in the vicinity of an abortion facility. Prayer is given as one such expression, as well as “crossing oneself” in public.
Smith-Connor’s legal team contend that freedom of thought is protected absolutely through the Human Rights Act and therefore the Council has no power to prohibit silent prayer.