Judge throws injunction against Nottingham pro-life campaigner out of Court
23 March 2018
An injunction brought by Nottingham City Council against Dr John Edwards, organiser of the 40 Days for Life Vigil in Nottingham, has been lifted.
In a hearing this afternoon, Judge Owen ruled that there was no evidence base for the injunction, and that it be discharged. The attempt by the Council to extend the injunction to other members of the vigil also failed. Judge Owens further ruled that there was no basis on the evidence brought before the court for directing, as requested by Nottinghamshire City Council, that the matter go to full trial.
Nottingham City Council has also agreed to pay costs incurred by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) for legal advice provided to the 40 Days for Life team, and the support of CEO John Smeaton, who accompanied Dr Edwards into Court.
Dr Edwards said: “We’re delighted that the court has decided to uphold our right to pray and to express our point of view in public. This was a deeply misguided attempt by the city council to attack free speech simply because they disagreed with our point of view.”
“40 Days for Life is a peaceful, prayerful act of witness that takes place legally in hundreds of communities throughout the world. Here in Nottingham, the vigil takes place outside the grounds of QMC Hospital in Nottingham, for 40 days during Lent. Participants in the vigil stand on the pavement and pray quietly, holding banners with wording such as “Pray to end abortion”. The banners do not display any pictures.
“We do not intimidate anyone. If anyone approaches us, we will talk to them, and can direct women to sources of support to help them keep their baby if that is what they wish. Many women around the country have been helped by such vigils.
“The place where we pray is some distance away from the entrance to the Treatment Centre. We do not block the entrance. We do not block access anywhere. And we do not approach patients.
“All of this was known to the Council. Nowhere in the Court documents is there any suggestion that I or any other participant in the vigil has said or done anything abusive or insulting to anyone visiting or working in the Hospital. The documents provided by the Council to the Court actually acknowledge that our Vigil has been completely peaceful at all times and that any disturbance has been created by pro-abortion counter protestors. This has been confirmed in writing by the Police, who we have consulted throughout the campaign.
“I can only conclude that this was an act of bullying by Nottingham City Council aimed at preventing me, a respected member of the community, from exercising my basic rights to freedom of expression and to pray in public.
“Not only was this unjust, the way the Council went about it is unjust. I was given no opportunity to defend myself in the initial court hearing. Furthermore, the long letter I sent to the Council, asking in what ways the vigil was causing “alarm and distress” was not disclosed to the Court.
“We are here in an act of peaceful witness, and to offer help to women in need. It is clearly not our intention, or in our interests, to alarm or distress anyone. Accordingly, I asked the council to explain their allegations against me, so we could work together to resolve any such problems. That I did not receive a reply shows that the Council is not interested in amicable solutions, but rather is determined to shut down pro-life free speech.
“This was an attack not just on pro-life people, and the women we seek to reach out to, but to freedom of expression and speech generally. Abortion is a sensitive and difficult subject and of course not everyone agrees with our view. The issues here are about freedom of speech and the right of citizens to hold peaceful protests. The Human Rights Act makes clear that all people have the right to express their views and to exercise their religion in a public space as long as they do so peacefully. The Council’s action was a threat to all peaceful protest, whether on environmental issues, animal rights, or nuclear weapons. It is good news for everyone that it has been defeated today.
“I would like to thank all those who have expressed support, including patients and people working at QMC who are grateful for our presence.”
John Smeaton said: “It is great news that this attack through the courts on peaceful public acts of witness and freedom of expression has been defeated today. SPUC gives 100% backing to the pro-life team in Nottingham who have been praying, providing pastoral support, and seeking to build public awareness concerning abortion which involves the deliberate ending of an unborn child’s life. Nottingham City Council’s action against a respected member of the community represents a real threat to freedom, historically so prized by the British people, and it is heartening that a judge has so completely exonerated Dr Edwards.
We hope this decision today will deter any future attempts to silence the pro-life voice through the courts, and SPUC will do everything in its power to resist any such injustice in the future.”
John Edwards is available for interviews on 07757815625