A Christian man who was arrested and prosecuted for praying outside an abortion clinic has had the charges against him dropped.

Christian Hacking, 29, was arrested in early August while "peacefully praying" outside an abortion clinic in a London, England suburb according to a press release from Christian Concern. He was arrested for allegedly violating a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) outside of Marie Stopes abortion clinic in the community of Ealing.

The PSPO was put in place by a local city council to provide a 'buffer space' around abortion clinics. 

Christian Concern, a Christian legal defence non-profit, says "the arrest and case, revealed by police body camera footage, raises the question of whether praying in a public space now constitutes ‘harassment’ and whether buffer zones around abortion clinics breach freedom of expression, religion and thought."

Hacking pleaded not guilty and was set to go on trial November 5, 2019. However last week he received a letter stating that the case would no longer go forward due to there being not "enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction."

The exclusion zone, upheld by the Court of Appeal in October 2019, prohibits a range of activities within 100m of the clinic and even outlaws prayer. It states: "[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."

Despite being warned by the police that merely being on the green outside of the clinic constitutes breaking the PSPO, Hacking said in response: “I’m going to continue praying. I’m in this place because they’re killing human beings inside this clinic, it is against the law to ban anyone praying anywhere in this land. The PSPO has been built upon false grounds, false harassment, fake news, I don’t respect it. I don’t think you have a constitutional right to stop someone from praying, so I’m going to continue praying here until you remove me, forcibly or whatever, because what’s more important is that God’s law is upheld in this nation and not the law of those who govern this nation and not this ludicrous law that says people can’t pray.”

Hacking then asked for clarification from the police officer if it was a criminal offence for him to pray in that location. The officer said: "l’m saying you’re in breach of the court order."

Hacking responded: "So it’s a criminal offence to pray, according to the court order, it’s a criminal offence to pray outside of a place where children are being killed?” The officer then merely stated: “I believe that I’ve given you the answer."

Police eventually arrested and detained Hacking.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, says “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. Its 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.”