Dorset Pensioner on trial for offering to talk to women in crisis pregnancies 

  • Livia Tossici-Bolt held a sign reading “Here to talk, if you want to” near an abortion facility in Bournemouth
  • Local authorities have charged the retired scientist for breaching a censorial “buffer zone”; ADF UK supports her legal defence 

BOURNEMOUTH (10 March 2024) – A retired medical scientist from Bournemouth is facing trial following charges relating to her charitable work supporting women in crisis pregnancies. 

 

Livia Tossici-Bolt, 62, held a sign reading “here to talk, if you want to” near an abortion facility in Bournemouth. While she held the sign, several individuals did approach Tossici-Bolt to discuss issues they were facing in their lives. 

 

Local authorities confronted Tossici-Bolt, alleging that she had breached a local abortion “buffer zone”, which bans expression of approval or disapproval of abortion. They issued a Fixed Penalty Notice, which Tossici-Bolt refused to pay, on the grounds that she did not breach the terms of the PSPO, and had the right, protected under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, to offer consensual conversations.

 

The Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council have proceeded to charge the volunteer, who awaits a trial date at Poole Magistates’ Court. Her legal defence is supported by ADF UK. 

"There’s nothing wrong with offering help. There’s nothing wrong with two adults engaging in a consensual conversation on the street. I shouldn’t be treated like a criminal just for this,"

We all condemn harassment. But “buffer zones” are going so far even to criminalise activities which are peaceful and helpful. For several years now, I have been offering a helping hand to women who would like to consider other options to abortion, and pointing them to options where they can receive financial and practical support, if that’s what they would like. There’s nothing wrong with offering help. There’s nothing wrong with two adults engaging in a consensual conversation on the street. I shouldn’t be treated like a criminal just for this,” said Livia Tossici-Bolt, whose legal defence is being supported by ADF UK.

Government deliberate on free speech

In 2023, the UK government passed legislation in the Public Order Act to enforce censorial buffer zones around all abortion facilities, banning any form of “influence”.  

 

The Home Office have issued draft guidance to clarify that the right of women to engage in consensual conversations of their own free will remains protected, as does the freedom to pray inside one’s own mind. Two MPs have approached the Home Office demanding that the guidance be changed to cease protecting both of these rights. 

“Under vaguely-written local “buffer zone” measures, we have seen volunteers like Livia criminalised simply for offering help to women in need; and others dragged through courts for praying, even silently, in their minds.  

 

The principle of freedom of thought and speech must be defended both within and outside ‘buffer zones’. The Home Office have sought to keep our country in line with international law by protecting freedom of thought and of consensual conversation in the draft buffer zone guidance. It is vital, for the preservation of democracy, that this stands,” commented Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, who are supporting Tossici-Bolt’s legal defence.  

 

 

Livia Tossici-Bolt with Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK, the organisation supporting her legal defence

A second attempt to charge the pensioner for carrying out charitable work

Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council have recently apologised for causing Livia Tossici-Bolt to feel “distressed and harassed” when officers wrongfully attempted to move her from a public street on another occasion. 

 

Tossici-Bolt was standing alone and holding a sign reading “Pregnant? Need help?” with a helpline number for women in crisis pregnancies. 

 

In a moment captured on video, officers confronted Tossici-Bolt, accusing her of standing inside Bournemouth’s censorial “buffer zone”, which criminalises “expressions of approval or disapproval of abortion”.  

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The authorities have since acknowledged that she was not within the censored “buffer zone” on this occasion but claim the map she brought with her to indicate her position was “confusing”. The map, in fact, was a replica of the map found on the council’s own website. 

 

Livia was interrogated for praying and offering charitable help even outside of a buffer zone on one occasion – exposing the reality of the slippery slope of censorship. If the state is allowed to criminalise the mere holding of prolife viewpoints within certain public spaces, on what basis can we object to criminalisation in all public spaces?  

 

The purported blanket bans on prayer and consensual conversations were never about the prevention of harassment and intimidation – after all, in the UK, not a single pro-life vigil volunteer has been convicted for harassment and intimidation in over 40 years of prolife presence near abortion facilities,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK.

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