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Monday, January 17, 2022

Court of Appeal to hear legal challenge over ‘safe zone’ around abortion clinic

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The Court of Appeal has granted permission to appeal to claimants who unsuccessfully challenged Ealing Council’s decision to introduce – through a public spaces protection order – a “safe zone” outside an abortion clinic.

The case of Dulgheriu & Anor v The London Borough of Ealing [2018] EWHC 1667 (Admin) centred on the Marie Stopes Clinic on Mattock Lane, Ealing.

The council introduced the PSPO in April 2018. The claimants, who were both strong proponents of the pro-life stance, applied to the High Court to quash the order of the defendant so as to permit the protesters to return to the immediate vicinity of the clinic to continue their activities as before.

Mr Justice Turner rejected the claim in June under s.59 of the Crime Policing and Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2014. He said in his ruling: “Having, in the circumstances of this case, undertaken a structured proportionality review, I have concluded that the defendant’s decision to make a PSPO ought not to be quashed in whole or in part on this challenge.”

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The judge also made the following observations:

  1. This was not a case about the rights and wrongs of abortion;
  2. The genuineness of the motives of the activists on both sides of the debate could not be doubted;
  3. His conclusions in this case did not give the green light to local authorities to impose PSPOs as a matter of course upon areas in the immediate vicinity of abortion clinics. “Each case must be decided on its own facts.”

Landmark Chambers, whose Ben Fullbrook acts as junior counsel for the appellants, said the case raised important issues relating to the use of these anti-social behaviour measures and articles 8 (right to private and family life),  9 (freedom of religion), 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of assembly) of the ECHR.

The appeal will be heard later this year, the set said.

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