Court hears challenge to Ealing buffer zone
8 June 2018
Alina with her daughter Sarah in front of the High Court
The judgement has been reserved
The High Court has heard a challenge brought against the buffer zone imposed around the Marie Stopes centre in Ealing.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Alina Dulgheriu, a mother who was given help by the Good Council Network to keep her baby, said that the Council's decision to ban pro-life vigils around the clinic was "unlawful, invalid and unjustified."
The legal action was launched in April, within days of Ealing Council imposing a Public Space Protection Order around the Mattock Lane clinic, where peaceful vigils have taken place for over 20 years.
Helping, not harassing women
Counsel Alisdair Henderson told Mr Justice Turner that the PSPO was an "inappropriate tool" to tackle the issue and "inherently disproportionate" in the circumstances of a "peaceful and lawful vigil".
He also refuted accusations that members of pro-life vigils intimidate or harass women. "Not only do they condemn active harassment or intimidation – and they emphatically deny they have done anything approaching it – such behaviour would be entirely counter-productive to what they want to do," he said. "Obviously they are pro-life, but their sole means of achieving that is to offer help and support to women considering abortion."
Buffer zone removes vital support option
Clare McCullough, head of the Good Counsel Network, said: "A strong challenge was brought which provided an impartial judge an opportunity to understand the many ways in which mothers have been supported by witness at vigils."
When she launched the challenge, Ms Dulgheriu said: "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 clinic," she said. "I am launching my legal challenge at the high court to ensure that all women at Ealing and across the country do not have a vital support option removed. In doing this I represent the thousands of women who have been helped by these vigils."
The judge reserved his decision to a later date but did not indicate when he would give his ruling.
Freedom of expression
In the wake of Ealing Council's action, SPUC launched a new petition opposing this attack on peaceful freedom of expression in Ealing and elsewhere. SPUC's Antonia Tully said: "Although the Society does not organise vigils outside clinics itself, we absolutely defend the right of pro-lifers to peacefully witness and offer help to women in need. Every year, hundreds of women take advantage of this help. Hundreds of children are alive today because their mother encountered the Good Counsel Network outside the clinic. We call on the Home Secretary to stop this attack on peaceful freedom of expression and the freedom to pray outside abortion centres."
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