The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped charges against a Christian man who was arrested for praying outside an abortion clinic in London.
Christian Hacking, 29, from London, was arrested by police on 8 August for allegedly failing to comply with a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) outside of the Marie Stopes abortion clinic on Mattock Lane in Ealing.
He was due to go on trial on 5 November at Uxbridge Magistrates Court. But he now no longer has to stand trial after a letter was sent to him stating that the case could not be taken forward because there was not “enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.”
The Christian Legal Centre, which was supporting him, said his case raised questions about whether praying in a public space constitutes ‘harassment’ and whether buffer zones around abortion clinics breach freedom of expression, religion and thought.
The PSPO in Ealing has been in place since April 2018 and was the first in the country to be introduced around an abortion clinic.
It prevents pro-life campaigners from approaching women visiting the clinic to offer counselling or information about alternatives to abortion.
The PSPO states that people must not engage “in any act of approval/disapproval or attempted act of approval/disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means. This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling.”
While the PSPO at the Ealing clinic provides for a designated ‘protest’ area nearby, Mr Hacking, a wheelchair user, and another campaigner sat on the green directly opposite the clinic.
The police statement from the arrest says that “both males were sitting quietly on the grass”, CLC said.
Mr Hacking was warned by the police that being on the green outside of the clinic was a breach of the PSPO, but he responded by saying that he would continue praying.
He was then removed from the site by four officers who carried him by his arms and legs and placed him in a police van.
Mr Hacking said that he did not regret his actions.
“To be treated like a criminal and imprisoned for eight hours for praying is ludicrous,” he said.
“My Christian faith calls me to defend the voiceless and what more peaceful way can I achieve this than through prayer. If abortion providers don’t want me praying outside their clinic they should buy the land and ring fence it. Not arrest people for doing what they don’t like on public property.”
He continued: “I do not regret what I did, and urge the Church to pray more, not less outside of clinics until the killing stops. Surely we, as a nation, can give women in a crisis something better than abortion. I care deeply about all the families who attend abortion clinics and will continue to do what it takes, no matter what, until this silent genocide of innocent children ends.”
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is astonishing that vital police resources have been used to arrest and detain a man in a wheelchair for peacefully praying outside an abortion clinic.
“The alleged purpose of the PSPO legislation was to prevent harassment despite there never having been evidence to show that women have been harassed. The authorities now seem to think that even prayer is harassment. Christian did not harass anybody, and his arrest was just plain wrong.
“The footage of four police officers carrying a disabled man and his wheelchair to a riot van, simply for praying, is deeply disturbing. It’s intended effect is to silence any opposition to what is going on in the clinic. Christian’s arrest will have the opposite result.
“Christian took a courageous stand outside of the clinic motivated by God’s love for each and every one of us and especially for women in crisis pregnancies and their children. What does it say about our society when peaceful compassion for life is treated by arrest and imprisonment?
“We call on Ealing Council to review their policy around the buffer zone and for free speech and free movement to be properly restored to the area.”
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