- VERDICT ANTICIPATED: Father Sean Gough will appear before Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on THURSDAY 16 February, alongside Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested for silent prayer in viral video
- Catholic Priest was criminally charged after holding a “praying for free speech” sign in a Birmingham abortion facility censorship zone
- SUPPORT FREE SPEECH: Supporters invited to sign open letter to the Home Secretary to highlight the consequences of censorship zones before national rollout
BIRMINGHAM (13 February 2023) – The Catholic Priest charged for silent prayer within the censorship zone of a Birmingham abortion facility will appear before Birmingham Magistrates’ Court this Thursday, 16th February.
For peacefully supporting free speech within the censorship zone, Father Sean Gough was charged with “intimidating service-users” of the abortion facility. This was despite the fact that all this happened while the abortion facility was closed.
A further charge related to parking his car, which for some time has had on it a small “unborn lives matter” bumper sticker, within the same area.
Father Gough will appear in court alongside Isabel Vaughan-Spruce – the charity volunteer seen in a viral video to be searched and arrested by three police officers on account of her silent prayer.
“I could never have imagined that as a priest, I would have to endure a legal battle simply for praying – and believing that both lives matter in a pregnancy. My Christian beliefs, prayers, and expressions of support for free speech are entirely peaceful and lawful. I have dedicate much of my ministry to supporting women impacted by abortion and did not believe I was breaking any laws by praying near the abortion facility, especially while it was closed. I’m glad to have a court date set and look forward to the opportunity to clear my name on Thursday,” commented Father Sean ahead of his hearing at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
Censorship Zones result in multiple prayer charges
The area surrounding the facility nearby which Father Gough prayed has been covered by a local Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), in force since November, which prohibits prayer, distributing information about pregnancy help services, and other activities considered to constitute “protest”.
When police officers initially approached the priest holding the “praying for free speech sign”, they told Father Gough that they did not think that he was breaking rules. However, the priest was later invited for interview at the police station, interrogated on his actions, and eventually criminally charged.
The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently dropped the charges against Father Gough due to “insufficient evidence”, but made clear that the charges “may well start again” in the near future subject to further evidential review. This is a warning prosecutors can issue when they expect that further evidence will be received. Father Gough pursued a verdict in court in order to end this state of legal ambiguity and to clear his name.
“It’s remarkable that in 2023, in the UK, upstanding people are embroiled in criminal proceedings, all because they prayed in their minds. Father Sean was charged for an old “Unborn Lives Matter” bumper sticker and for making it clear that he was praying for free speech – and this case only makes clear that more prayers are needed – coupled with concrete legislative changes to stymie the concerning downward trajectory of free speech protections in the UK,” said Ryan Christopher, Director of ADF UK, who are supporting the case.
“Both Isabel and Father Sean have a history of going above and beyond to charitably serve women in crisis pregnancy, young mothers, and people who have been impacted by abortion. This censorial PSPO regulation has resulted in both being unjustly punished for their thoughts and beliefs in an unjust and completely unnecessary legal process. Westminster should pay close attention to these consequences before rolling out buffer zones across England and Wales,” he continued.
ADF UK have invited supporters of Father Sean and Isabel Vaughan-Spruce to sign an open letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, asking her to protect free speech, thought and peaceful offers of charitable help near abortion facilities. www.adf.uk/support-fr-sean