Ealing buffer zone appeal rejected by High Court

01 Sep 2018

As reported in Image News May 2018, Ealing Council voted unanimously in April to ban pro- life vigils outside the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing. As a result, a PSPO (Public Service Protection Order) was imposed on a designated area outside the clinic, which has since permitted the council to ban any protests and vigils from taking place there. 

On 27th April 2018, a challenge to Ealing Council's decision was filed by Ms Alina Dulgheriu who herself was offered help and an alternative to abortion by the Good Counsel Network outside the abortion clinic in Ealing some years ago. As a result of the support she received she continued her unplanned pregnancy and now has a six year old daughter. At the time of the appeal Ms Dulgheriu stated that: "Without sufficient justification, Ealing council has decided to criminalise otherwise lawful behaviour…to criminalise charitable activity that is needed by some of the most vulnerable women in our society....I am asking that justice be done for those women who have been ignored by Ealing Council… (As quoted by Catholic Herald)

However, the High Court has rejected the appeal and has backed the buffer zone ban ordered by Ealing Council. Mr Justice Turner did consider the ban to interfere with the vigil holders' human rights, but also agreed that the measures that Ealing Council had taken were a “necessary step in a democratic society”. He also added: "There was substantial evidence that a very considerable number of users of the clinic reasonably felt that their privacy was being very seriously invaded at a time and place when they were most vulnerable and sensitive to uninvited attention.....It also follows that, in this regard, I am also satisfied that the defendant [council] was entitled to conclude that the effect of the activities of the protesters was likely to make such activities unreasonable, and justified the restrictions imposed.” (As quoted by The Guardian)

Following the High Court's decision Ms Dulgheriu said: "I am devastated for those women that since the introduction of the Ealing PSPO have not been able to access the loving help that I did. I feel desperately sorry for the vigil members who since the move to create this PSPO have been consistently subject to abuse on the street and slander online". (As quoted by The Guardian)

Antonia Tully from SPUC has also commented on the decision saying: "What is most shocking is that the High Court is allowing a council to ban peaceful public acts of witness and freedom of expression and stop members of the public offering charitable help to pregnant women.....A mother who was herself given this help and has a beautiful six- year- old daughter as a result brought this challenge, and a judge has decided that no other mothers may be helped this way, and no- one else’s sons or daughters may be saved....Instead, they are to be left at the mercy of Marie Stopes. It’s the height of irony that it’s not the multi- million pound organisation that we know from CQC reports has injured women and put their health and safety at risk that is facing court action, but volunteers who give up their time to offer financial help and moral support to women who want to keep their babies. What kind of society treats its citizens in this way? .....Countless women bear the scars of abortion.....Outlawing the freedom to speak out publicly against abortion, means that the damaging impact of abortion on women will be sidelined even further. Who will help women suffering after an abortion when caring pro- lifers are forbidden to reach out to them in the public square?" (As quoted by SPUC) launch- high- court- challenge- to- ealing- buffer- zone/ releases/2018/july/spuc- condemns- shocking- decision- to- uphold- ealing- buffer- zone