Charles Malet Podcast: Birmingham's No-Prayer Law—the law that has to ask you if you're breaking it

The tyrant state abhors an objective standard to which it is accountable; rather, it flourishes in a subjective environment. It wants to be accountable to no one.
— Matthew Trewhella, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government

In this measured forty-minute podcast, Charles Malet reviews the arrest just before Christmas 2022 of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce for standing silently in the vicinity of an abortion clinic in Birmingham. Birmingham City Council had just promulgated a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that delineated the area around the facility as a no-pray zone, a nonsense that another UK Column writer has lamented with regard to Bournemouth.

With such orders, local authorities—to be more accurate, the unelected staff working supposedly for local councillors—have turned prayer into crime. Charles Malet points out that this is no hyperbole, because Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was not given a chance by attending West Midlands Police to leave the scene quietly: her confirmation that she had been praying silently was sufficient to incriminate her.

Charges against her were dropped in February 2023. 

Charles considers Spruce's 2016 statement of motives to the BBC and deplores the increasing subjectivity of legislation, including sub-national legislation (by-laws and what British councils and police euphemistically call "orders" and "directions"). He concludes that the parent act of this PSPO is a "self-licking lollipop" because it imputes one of the two essential elements that constitute a crime, namely a guilty mind (mens rea).

This is inferred by the attending police, as worded in the sloppily-drafted PSPO: the arresting constable had to ask Vaughan-Spruce, in effect, "Are you committing an offence?" The "balancing of rights" that it is incumbent on police to carry out when evaluating whether to make an arrest for a breach of a PSPO itself constitutes interference in people's rights and is a repudiation of impartiality.

Meanwhile, as Charles Malet has noted before (as have other UK Column authors), regime-compliant life-endangering and property-wrecking protest is happily tolerated by our constabularies. The Church of England couldn't care less about the targeting of people like Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, Malet notes.

Charles concludes that political policing is psychological attack and is remedied by the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates (formulated in 1550 but of ancient provenance). Public servants' duty to interpose themselves between wretched law and the people they have sworn to protect has been discussed by UK Column's Mark Anderson.