The government has said the case of a Christian woman who was arrested after claiming she was told by police she may have been silently praying near to an abortion clinic is a “matter for local authorities”.
Last December, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was approached by officers who had reportedly received complaints about her standing outside BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham. She was arrested, bailed out and scheduled to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 2nd February 2023.
A Public Space Protection Order, also known as a 'buffer zone', which bans behaviour that may intimidate women entering an abortion clinic, has recently been introduced around the building.
Her arrest fuelled an ongoing debate on whether buffer zones are infringing people’s right of freedom of speech.
Answering a written question in Parliament, Lord Sharpe of Epsom said that while the government supports Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides everyone with a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the imposition of Public Space Prevention Orders was a “matter for local authorities”.
“The imposition of Public Space Prevention [Protection]Orders is a matter for the local authorities who are required to consider European Convention rights, including Article 8 that provides a right to respect private and family life. Operational matters and charging are matters for the police,” Lord Sharpe of Epsom continued.
The question was brought to Parliament by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who had asked for the government’s assessment of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce’s case.