On 7 March the House of Commons voted to comprehensively introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics to the Public Order Bill for the final time. The clause to the bill was approved by a majority of 299 MPs in favor to 116 against. Now that the Public Order Bill is set to become law, any form of "influence" around abortion clinics will be criminalised, including silent prayer or consensual conversations, de facto making "thought crime" a reality in the UK. Experts have commented that while harassment and intimidation are already illegal, this law would be a serious attack on freedom of speech and freedom of thought.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce had been arrested and charged with violating protest policy near an abortion center, as she was standing on the street and praying in her thoughts. UK authorities have now dropped the charges against her, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) warned that charges could start again in a near future. Vaughan-Spruce has said she wants to seek a clear verdict in court.
The NGO ADF UK posted a video of two community safety accredited officers in Bournemouth interrogating a veteran who was standing on the street alone, praying in his thoughts. The officers told Adam Smith-Connor that he was praying inside a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) space, for which he was fined. According to the PSPO, certain activities such as acts of "disapproval" towards the abortion facility in the area are prohibited. Adam is at least the second person who was fined for praying silently on the street. He told the officers he was praying for his deceased son, which they considered an "act of disapproval."
An unexpected shooting occurred in North London on January 14. at the St Aloysius Roman Catholic Church. The 22-year-old suspect drove and shot 6 people who were coming out of a memorial service inside the church. The victims were a 48-year-old who has severe life-threatening injuries; a 12, 21, 41, and 54-year-old. A 7-year-old girl was also injured and was in serious condition. The police department detained the suspect for questioning after his car was found parked on Sunday. It was also mentioned that the bullets came from a black Toyota C-HR.
At around 3.45 p.m. on the 29th of December, the St Peter’s Church door was busted open by teenagers. Once inside, they damaged a cross, a statue and candles. The suspects are four boys and four girls who were seen by residents running away from the church with dark clothes on and heading toward Claydon High School. The faces are yet to be identified but the police are asking for any cam footage from cars that were there parked near the scene.
ADF UK reported that a charity volunteer has been arrested and charged with four counts after telling the police that she “might” be praying silently in her mind, after being questioned by them over why she was standing inside an abortion facility’s censorship zone. The arrest and charges took place as authorities consider criminalising prayer near abortion facilities nationwide in the new Public Order Bill.
Between the 18th and 19th of December, an unknown perpetrator destroyed several windows of the St. John of Rochester Catholic church in Egham Hythe. The perpetrator smashed the windows by throwing flower pots through them. The shattered glass spread over the floor and the incident was discovered by a church volunteer, Anne-do Bauchot. She and other church members said they were "heartbroken" by seeing this attack. Also, because of this, the church was not able to hold their traditional Christmas Eve service.
Derek Timms, a chaplain from Solihull, was told in September at the Marie Curie charity’s Solihull branch, that he must not wear the cross as it might "offend’ and "create barriers" with patients. He was also told that he would face consequences if he did not remove the cross, which was a symbol of his faith but also a memory of his late wife. After receiving legal support, Mr Timms received an "unreserved" apology letter from the Marie Curie charity's regional head office.
In November 2022, policemen confronted a woman praying in a public space, on the edge of a "buffer zone" (a 150m neutral zone surrounding abortion clinics in British law). The case raises polemics about "buffer zones" in general.
A church in Llanllwchaiarn (near Newtown) is facing a "at least" £30,000 bill after unknown vandals smashed six glass-stained windows. The windows of the St. Llwchaiarn church were protected with a wire mesh, but the vandals were still able to break the glass, apparently with iron rods from an old grave. The incident took place between the 8th and 10th of November.
The Christian Institute has reported that parents of children at Hatcham College were denied access to see the Sex-Education lesson slides used by an external NGO. The parents requested access to the slides by the School of Sexuality Education (SoSE), but the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) denied their request, stating it would compromise the sex education provider’s “intellectual property”. This, nevertheless, undermines parental rights, as the parents are not able to raise concern over material being taught to their children that might go against their beliefs.
A buffer zone was implemented outside the BPAS clinic in Bournemouth in a bid to deter people from praying or standing with pro-life signs outside the clinic. Anyone that fails to accept the decision could incur a fixed penalty notice of £100 or face court action. Buffer zones have been widely discussed, due to their limitation of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
In May 2019, Dr. Richard Scott faced an investigation by the NHS England (National Health Service) after several complaints were made about him offering prayer to patients, as he discussed this practice during a BBC Radio 4 interview. Dr. Scott faced an investigation to see if he was fit for practice, but the case has now been settled between Dr. Scott and the NHS, as reported on the news at the beginning of October. He has agreed to attend a course about professional boundaries and at the same time, with no admittance of wrongdoing.
The UK's already controversial Public Order Bill has received an amendment proposal that would criminalize supporting women seeking an abortion within a 150-meter "buffer zone" from an abortion clinic. Apart from the fact that this would open the way for authorities to repress Christian street preachers, this amendment means that prayer or any kind of help inside the "buffer zones" could lead to an up to two-year jail sentence. Laws like this already exist in Northern Ireland since March, and will also be a reality in Scotland in the near future.
A new report was submitted to the Scottish Government on the 4th of October that could criminalize efforts by parents to mentor their children according to their beliefs, with the possibility of losing parental custody. Prayers and private conversations could also be criminalized. The report considers "conversion practices" as "any treatment, practice or effort that aims to change, suppress, and/or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, expression of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.".
On the 1st of October, unknown thieves targeted the St. Nicholas Church in Baddesley Ensor. They have stolen the historic stained glass windows that were at the side of the church. The Warwickshire Police are investigating the case. For now, the windows had to be boarded up.
Sometime between 25. September and 1st of October, a silver chalice worth thousands of pounds was stolen from a village church in Cambridgeshire. According to the sources, the chalice is believed to date back to the 16th century. It was kept in the All Saints and St Andrews Church, where thieves broke in and took the chalice from the safe. The police have been notified and are running investigations.
A Scottish politician, John Mason, has been disciplined by party leaders at Holyrood after he showed support for pro-life activism outside hospitals. He was sent a written warning and was accused of causing women “great distress” for his remarks on abortion and buffer zones outside clinics. The news was reported recently on the 15. September.
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has pronounced in favor of the legislation meant to limit pro-life activity around abortion clinics, which could lead to the creation of abortion clinic "buffer zones" across Scotland. The First Minister suggested that pro-life groups could protest in front of the Scottish parliament instead of gathering outside abortion clinics. A legal counsel for ADF UK, Mr. Igunnubole, warns that such laws do not possess a "reasonable excuse" to ignore basic tenets of the rule of law, such as Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly.
In the city of Leeds, members of society raised concerns, claiming that street preachers in the city center are using hate speech and homophobic language. The local council, together with the Police have now issued a new "code of conduct", in which they tell preachers that they respect their freedom of expression, but also recognise that it may be limited to "prevent disorder or crime".