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Ealing Censorship Zone to be reviewed by UK Court of Appeal

Summary

  • Ban on pro-life vigils said to violate fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly
  • Court of Appeal will review High Court decision to uphold controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Ealing

LONDON (9 January 2019) – The Court of Appeal has granted permission to appeal a High Court decision that upheld a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around an abortion facility in the London Borough of Ealing. The Ealing PSPO, which took effect in April last year, imposed a censorship zone that criminalised a wide range of conduct, including prayer, peaceful protest and the offering of leaflets. The PSPO was subject to a legal challenge shortly after coming into force in April of last year, but in July the High Court found that Ealing Council’s PSPO was lawful. However, the Court of Appeal has now agreed to hear an appeal.

Using a PSPO to expel pro-life groups from the area is a drastic and unnecessary measure, and it violates individuals’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

“We welcome the Court of Appeal’s decision to review the High Court ruling on the censorship zone instituted by Ealing Council. The imposition of the wide-ranging Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) was entirely disproportionate in the circumstances. In a free society, ideas should be fought with ideas, not criminal penalties. Not only do local councils and the police have a broad range of existing powers to deal with any unacceptable behaviour outside of abortion centres, but evidence shows that hundreds of women have benefitted from the support offered by groups such as The Good Counsel Network outside these centres. Using a PSPO to expel pro-life groups from the area is a drastic and unnecessary measure, and it violates individuals’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly,” said Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International.

Supporting women in need

Ealing Council’s PSPO was originally challenged in the High Court by a local mother, Alina Dulgheriu. Ms Dulgheriu had received help and support outside of an abortion facility that enabled her to keep her baby, and argued that the PSPO should be overturned as it violated rights guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights. Although the High Court found that fundamental rights had been infringed through the implementation of the censorship zone, it ultimately decided to uphold the PSPO, and ordered Ms. Dulgheriu to pay Ealing Council’s legal costs. However, the Court of Appeal will now revisit the findings made by the High Court.

“I am hopeful the Court of Appeal will recognise that the human rights violations caused by the Ealing PSPO are entirely unacceptable in a democratic society. Under the banner of protecting women, this censorship zone has actually removed options available to vulnerable women who feel as though they have no choice but to go through with an abortion. By criminalising even the most basic offer of support at a recognised point of need, Ealing has gone far beyond what is reasonable or proportionate. The European Court of Human Rights has reiterated the importance of guaranteeing robust freedom of expression, particularly on controversial topics such as abortion, and it is clear that Ealing’s censorship zone undermines this freedom without justification,” said Wilkinson.

Find the “Be Here for Me” campaign’s press release here.

For more information on the effort against the ban on help outside abortion clinics please visit: https://behereforme.org/

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