Charges against a Malvern woman who ‘silently prayed’ near an abortion clinic have been dropped.

Isabel Vaughan-Spurce faced four charges of failing to comply with a Public Spaces Protection Order alongside Catholic priest, Father Sean Gough.

The pair were accused of “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users” of a Birmingham abortion clinic.

At a brief hearing on Thursday, February 16, prosecutor Ekene Pruce said that the Crown Prosecution Service had dropped the charges, which related to dates in October, November and December last year.

Ms Pruce said the cases had been judged not to meet the “full code test” for prosecutors which assesses whether prosecutions are in the public interest and whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

Asked by District Judge David Wain why the full code test had not been met, Ms Pruce replied: “I would not be able to comment on that.”

In a statement, Fr Gough, 33, and Ms Vaughan-Spruce, 45, criticised the decision to charge them for “silently praying” and “praying for free speech”, saying they had been put “on trial for praying in an abortion facility censorship zone”.

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Vaughan-Spruce told reporters she had been “arrested and criminalised simply for my private thoughts on a public street”.

She added: “Those who are trying to offer alternatives are being branded as criminals and told that their behaviour is anti-social.

“What is profoundly anti-social is that in 2023 there are still certain members of our society who are having their most fundamental rights taken from them – the right to life itself.

“Other freedoms are now being censored. The freedom to offer help, the freedom to speak, the freedom to pray, even the freedom to think.”

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Malvern Gazette: Father Sean Gough and charity volunteer Isabel Vaughan-Spruce spoke to reporters after the hearingFather Sean Gough and charity volunteer Isabel Vaughan-Spruce spoke to reporters after the hearing (Image: PA WIRE)

Father Gough of the St Peter and St Paul Catholic Church in Wolverhampton accused the Government of “censoring the streets of the UK” and attempting to criminalise “silent prayer”.

The 33-year-old also urged MPs to look into the “overwhelmingly positive” work of pro-life groups.

He said: “It’s wrong for authorities to censor parts of the street from prayer – even silent prayer – and from peacefully having conversations and sharing information that could be of great help to women who want an alternative choice to abortion.

“If the government imposes censorship zones around every abortion facility in the country, as they are considering doing with the Public Order Bill currently under discussion, who knows how many more people are going to stand trial, how many people are going to be put in prison for offering help, for praying in their mind?”