Two pro-life advocates in England who were twice by Police for showing pictures of aborted babies outside the Wistons BPAS abortion clinic in Brighton own a key free speech victory.
A District Judge sitting in Brighton has today struck out all charges against Christian pro-life campaigner Andrew Stephenson. The case against his fellow campaigner, Kathryn Sloane, was dismissed last week during the same trial.
They raised a banner showing an early aborted baby near the entrance of the clinic and stood in silent protest. They had been there for about 45 minutes when they were approached by police. The police asked them to take down their pictures otherwise they would be arrested. A discussion followed as Mr Stephenson tried to explain why their actions were lawful.
Stephenson and Sloane refused to take down the banner as they believed that they had a lawful right to protest and educate. The police therefore arrested them and took them to Brighton Police station. After having their photographs, fingerprints and DNA taken they were offered a “fixed penalty notice” instead of being prosecuted. They refused the police’s offer and requested a court hearing.
Undeterred by the threat of arrest, Mr Stephenson and Miss Sloane returned to the abortion center on the 10th of August and protested in the same manner. Once again, after having stood in silent protest for 45 minutes, they were again approached by police.
Stephenson and Sloane refused to take down the banner and so were again arrested and taken to Brighton Police Station and held for 14 hours. This time they were interviewed under caution and were supported by the Christian Legal Centre which had human rights barrister Paul Diamond in the case.
Andy Stephenson said at the time, “All we were seeking to do was to highlight the dangers of abortion to the users of the BPAS clinic. The women who go to these clinics are simply not told the full story as to what abortion involves and the damage that it causes women. We always stand in complete silence and let the pictures do the talking.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, Barrister and Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which represents Andy and Kathryn, said: “The dismissal of these charges will be welcomed by all who value freedom of speech and expression. It is especially important in the context of the continuing debate about the role of independent abortion providers and the information made available to women.”
William continued, “This trial exposed the fact that not all who attend the clinic considering abortion receive counselling. Through the work that they do, Andrew and Kathryn seek to give women access to truth about abortion which although unpleasant is nonetheless true. If women are to make informed decisions about abortion, they need to be aware of the full impact of it.”
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“Flowing from their Christian faith, Andrew and Kathryn are motivated by their concern for women considering abortion and their conviction that all life is precious in God’s sight and needs to be protected. They seek to be voice for those who have no voice,” she added. “Given our experience in this and other similar cases, we will be seeking a meeting with the Association of Chief Police Officers to explore whether better guidance can be drawn up over the policing of such activities, especially those motivated by religious convictions.”