Press Release: Supreme Court turns down appeal on London’s first censorship zone. Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights being considered.

 In Be Here For Me

Press Release: Supreme Court turns down appeal on London’s first censorship zone. Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights being considered.

The Supreme Court has turned down permission to hear the legal 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, 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 of 2018. 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. The Court of Appeal had granted permission for the challenge to be appealed, but also sided with Ealing Council in an August 2019 ruling.

Alina is now considering whether to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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. Alina had challenged the Ealing censorship zone because it prevents the help women need to escape an unwanted or coerced abortion. The broadly-worded Ealing PSPO criminalised, among other activities:

  • Any act whatsoever of approval or disapproval regarding abortion
  • Prayer, even if it is silent
  • 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

In a similar case, a PSPO passed by Richmond Council has been challenged by Justyna Pasek, who has personally supported women visiting the abortion clinic in Richmond for over five years.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid previously said that he would not be introducing nationwide ‘buffer zones’. He 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.

Prominent human rights campaigners have expressed great concern about ease with which PSPOs allow councils to override basic civil liberties. 

Reacting to the decision, Alina Dulgheriu said:

I am devastated to hear that the Supreme Court has decided not to consider my appeal. My little girl is here today because of the practical and emotional support that I was offered outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I brought the appeal to ensure that other women did not have this vital support option removed.

It is unthinkable that any council would criminalise an offer of help to a woman who might want to keep her child. Ealing Council could have taken action in a way that would have safeguarded the essential help offered at the gate. Instead, they made charity a criminal offence and removed dedicated and caring individuals from public space without justification.

It is a travesty of justice to see the courts ignoring the impact this decision will have on vulnerable women who are in desperate need of a little help and support. The voices of these women have been sidelined throughout this process, even though they will be the ones most deeply affected by the removal of this life-changing support.

I am deeply grateful to all those who have supported me in bringing the legal challenge – without their incredible generosity this appeal would not have been possible. I am discussing my position with my legal team and will be considering all options, including an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. 

Elizabeth Howard, Be Here For Me spokesperson said:

Eight years ago, Alina Dulgheriu found herself jobless, homeless and alone after an unplanned pregnancy. She’d been fired from her job as a live-in nanny and abandoned by her boyfriend. 

She went to Marie Stopes to get advice on her options, but all they could offer her was an abortion. She didn’t want that but didn’t know where to turn.

Her life was changed when she met a pro-life volunteer at the gates of the abortion centre who told her that she did have options, that there was help available, and that she could keep her baby if she wanted.

She accepted the offer of help and her daughter was born. She is now seven years old, a beautiful, lively and beloved child.

Ealing Council has banned pro-lifers from helping women like Alina. Alina has challenged their decision in court, but twice the court have ignored her story.

In five years of the pro-life vigil’s work in Ealing, hundreds of women have accepted an offer of help and chose to keep their baby rather than have an abortion. These women have tried again and again to have their voices heard, but they are ignored.

It is disgraceful that in both court judgments, there is literally not a single sentence, not a single word, dedicated to the women who have been helped by the vigil, who are grateful for the vigil, and who have given the other side of the story.

The Supreme Court had an opportunity to rectify this deep miscarriage of justice, but has now declined to do so.

This is a very sad day for vulnerable women.