ADF International

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UK Court of Appeal reviews Ealing prayer ban

Summary

  • Court of Appeal reviews High Court decision to uphold controversial censorship zone in Ealing
  • Ban on pro-life vigils and offers of help present threat to freedom of speech and assembly

LONDON (15 July 2019) – Tomorrow, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales will hear the appeal from a High Court decision which upheld a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around an abortion facility in the London Borough of Ealing. The order, which took effect in April 2018, imposed a censorship zone that criminalised a wide range of conduct, including prayer, peaceful protest, and the offering of leaflets. It was subject to a legal challenge shortly after coming into force, but in July 2018 the High Court found that the order was lawful. However, the Court of Appeal agreed to hear the appeal by Alina Dulgheriu – a mother who had received help from a banned group during a difficult pregnancy.

“The Court of Appeal should recognise the human rights violations caused by the Ealing Public Spaces Protection Order and overturn the High Court’s decision. The disproportionate and wide-ranging measure taken by Ealing Council poses a serious threat to freedom of speech and assembly. It sets a negative precedent and outlaws even the most compassionate offer of assistance. Free societies must discuss controversial ideas rather than simply criminalising them. Evidence shows that hundreds of women have benefitted from the pro-life groups offering help outside abortion facilities,” said Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International.

The disproportionate and wide-ranging measure taken by Ealing Council poses a serious threat to freedom of speech and assembly…Free societies must discuss controversial ideas rather than simply criminalising them.

Threat to freedom of speech and assembly

Alina Dulgheriu, a local mother, challenged Ealing Council’s PSPO at the UK High Court shortly after it came into force in 2018. Ms Dulgheriu had been able to keep her baby after receiving support outside of an abortion facility. She 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 impacted by the implementation of the censorship zone, it ultimately decided the PSPO was justified and ordered Ms. Dulgheriu to pay Ealing Council’s legal costs. Now, the Court of Appeal has agreed to review the High Court’s findings and is hearing the case today.

“Today’s hearing provides an opportunity for the courts to reaffirm the fundamental right to speech and assembly. 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 proper justification,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.

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