SPUC "disturbed" by Belfast court ruling against respected pro-life campaigner
19 November 2014
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), one of the main pro-life groups in Northern Ireland, has said it is "disturbed" by today's ruling by a Belfast court against a respected pro-life campaigner.
SPUC was reacting to the news that Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life has been found guilty of harrassment against Dawn Purvis, the director of the Marie Stopes abortion centre in Belfast.
Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland development officer, said: "I find it very hard to believe that Bernadette Smyth, a highly-respected and long-serving pro-life leader, is guilty of criminal conduct. It would be quite wrong for her forthright opposition to abortion to be misconstrued as harrassment of women considering abortion or of abortion centre staff. SPUC supports her legal team's decision to appeal today's ruling."
Mr Gibson continued: "At present we do not have an official transcript of the judge's remarks. Once an official transcript is available, we will be seeking a legal opinion on the judgment. If the media's reports of the judge's remarks are accurate, it appears that the ruling may represent a disturbing curtailment of pro-lifers' freedom of speech and other civil freedoms. There is an unbroken tradition in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain of pro-life vigils outside abortion centres being conducted lawfully and peaceably."
According to the BBC, District Judge Chris Holmes told Belfast Magistrates' Court:
"I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not feel it's appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion and questioned either to their identity, why they are going in there and being forced to involve themselves in conversation at times when they are almost certainly going to be stressed and very possibly distressed."
Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland development officer, can be contacted on:
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