The Court of Appeal has granted permission to hear the challenge against Ealing Council in respect of its Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) which criminalised prayer and support outside an abortion clinic on Mattock Lane.
Alina Dulgheriu (picture), a mother who was supported by a pro-life vigil outside of a London abortion clinic, filed a High Court challenge against Ealing in April last year. The High Court accepted that her rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly had been infringed, but ultimately upheld Ealing’s PSPO. Alina subsequently launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the ongoing appeal, which successfully raised over £50,000 in under 3 months.
The development comes further to the announcement of the Home Secretary last September that he would not be introducing nationwide ‘buffer zones’. Sajid Javid said that such a move would not be proportionate in light of the ‘passive’ nature of activities outside of abortion clinics, as well as the existing powers of local councils and police.
While Ealing Council said that a PSPO was needed to tackle ‘anti-social’ behaviour, the wording of the order prevents individuals from offering support to women who believe they have no option but to have an abortion. The broadly-worded Ealing PSPO criminalised, among other activities:
* Any act whatsoever of approval or disapproval regarding abortion
* Handing out leaflets with an offer of practical support to women who wish to keep their child
* ‘Interfering’ with a clinic user in any way whatsoever
Prominent human rights campaigners have expressed great concern about ease with which PSPOs allow councils to override basic civil liberties. The Court of Appeal will now consider whether Ealing’s broad PSPO is lawful, with the appeal due to be heard later this year.
Alina, who was supported outside an abortion centre and is bringing the legal challenge, said:
“I am delighted that Court of Appeal will be reconsidering the very disappointing decision of the High Court. My little girl is here today because of the real practical and emotional support that I was given by a group outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I am continuing with this appeal to ensure that women in Ealing and all across the country do not have this vital support option removed.
Ealing Council could have taken action in a way that would have protected women and safeguarded the essential, life-saving help offered at the gate. Instead they criminalised charity and attempted to remove dedicated and caring individuals from public space without justification.
This appeal has been made possible by the generosity of hundreds of individuals who generously gave to the crowdfunding appeal. It is very clear that many are opposed to Ealing’s ban on peaceful and charitable activity, and like me, they want to see support available to vulnerable women where it is most needed.
I cannot imagine a society where a simple offer of help to a woman who might want to keep her child is seen as a criminal offence. I refuse to accept that women should be denied the opportunity to receive help where they want to keep their child.”
Clare Mulvany, spokeswoman for the Be Here For Me campaign, said:
“Alina’s courageous determination and the extraordinarily swift generosity of hundreds of supporters has made this legal challenge possible.
The Be Here For Me campaign was set up by and for women who oppose the PSPO because it brings to an end the life-changing chance to encounter the kind of support they themselves needed, and found, outside an abortion centre.
These women, so long missing from the conversation, are now speaking for themselves.
With the help they have encountered outside the abortion centre many hundreds of women have been empowered to make a choice that they wanted, rather than one which was thrust upon them.
To forbid philanthropic humanitarian activity which has been of such demonstrable benefit to so many is a ruthless betrayal of vulnerable women and turns upside down the much touted axioms of ‘choice’ and freedom.
It is an unjust prohibition which punishes the most vulnerable members of society and we are delighted that Alina now has the opportunity to challenge it in the Court of Appeal.”