Authorities in Bournemouth, England, have criminally charged a British army veteran for praying silently while standing in a buffer zone outside an abortion clinic, his attorneys said Friday.

The case is the latest in a string of prosecutions critics have dubbed “thoughtcrimes” where people standing silently near abortion clinics are charged with offenses, even if the incidents occur when the facilities are closed.

Adam Smith-Connor, a medical professional who spent 20 years in the army reserves, will face magistrates on Aug. 9 and is expected to plead not guilty on charges of violating a Public Spaces Protection Order that bans prayer within a buffer zone as a means of expressing approval or disapproval of abortion.



He said he was silently praying for the loss of a son years earlier, a child lost in an abortion he paid for and whom he named Jacob.

“The decision I made all those years ago now grieves me deeply,” Mr. Smith-Connor said in a statement. “I was praying also for those contemplating abortion, especially those in vulnerable situations who believe abortion is their ‘only choice.’ It isn’t for the authorities to determine the contents of my thoughts on this matter, on a public street.”

The Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council declined to comment on the Smith-Connor case.

Mr. Smith-Connor was fined £100 or about $127 on Dec. 13, 2022, for the offense, which took place about a month earlier. On May 12, 2023, the Council issued its charge against Mr. Smith-Connor but did not notify him of the charges until July 19, according to ADF UK, the British branch of Alliance Defending Freedom.

While legally required to notify the subject of charges “as soon as possible,” the BCP Council did not contact Mr. Smith-Connor nor bring him into questioning before notifying him of the charges. An ADF UK spokesperson said the delay could be grounds for the court to dismiss the case.

“In permitting the prosecution of silent prayer, we are sailing into dangerous waters regarding human rights protections in the UK,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, an ADF UK legal counsel who represents Mr. Smith-Connor.

Mr. Igunnubole said that having created and enforced the buffer zone at the Bournemouth clinic, the BCP Council is now pressing charges, “making the council the judge, jury and executioner.”

“The Code for Crown Prosecutors requires prosecutors to be even-handed in their approach to every case, and to protect the rights of suspects and defendants – a duty which has been ignored at every stage by the Council, which has not only shown itself to be incapable of impartiality but also failed to grasp the gravity of inaugurating thoughtcrime trials in the UK,” he said.

Authorities in other British cities have arrested people for silently praying near abortion clinics.

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a Catholic pro-life volunteer, has twice been arrested by police in Birmingham for her silent prayers. She and the Rev. Sean Gough, a Catholic priest, were acquitted in a Feb. 16 trial but police arrested her again in March.

Also in March, the British parliament passed legislation to establish buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout the U.K. The ADF UK called them “censorship zones” that could ban silent prayer. An attempt by Andrew Lewer, a Conservative MP for Northampton South, to exempt such non-verbal actions from the bill failed.