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High Court decision today in life case and more info on SORs

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  • Increasing media coverage of Christian GP’s calls for SOR exemption;
  • High Court make decision in Catholic grandmother case;
  • and MPs debate future of adoption after SOR decision

15th February 2007

Summary


  1. In our last e-mail update we referred to calls being made by a Christian GP for a conscience exemption to the SORs to match the conscience exemption doctors have in relation to abortion (see the link to the GP’s press release, below). It is expected that the GP in question, Dr Lockley, will be speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme at around 7:30am on Friday morning.


    Any one who is able to, is asked to consider logging onto the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/) and registering their support for Dr Lockley’s principled position.

    We would also ask people to consider submitting a question to this evening’s ‘Question Time’ (BBC 1 at 10:35pm) programme (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/6361767.stm), along the lines of “Does the Panel believe that GPs should have a conscience opt-out in relation to the SORs in the same way they do in relation to abortion?”.

  2. The High Court has reached a judgment in the case of Veronica Connolly (see link, below). Mrs Connolly, a disabled Catholic grandmother, was prosecuted by the police under the Malicious Communications Act after she sent some pro-life material through the post to various pharmacists who stocked the ‘Morning After’ pill.

    Although the judge was prepared to accept that the material, including pictures showing an aborted foetus, was intended to be educational, the High Court upheld Mrs Connolly’s criminal conviction in what has been described by Mrs Connolly as a “most bizarre” judgment (for full details read the press release included in this e-mail).

    Though many would not have used Mrs Connolly’s approach to raising awareness of the true nature of abortions, to criminalise her behaviour as ‘grossly offensive’ does not sit well with the many images and materials which are broadcast, unchallenged, on television and in newspapers on a daily basis.

  3. Next Wednesday (21st) from 2:30-4:00pm, Julian Brazier MP has called a debate in Westminster Hall to address the issue of the “Future of the voluntary adoption sector”. An obvious focus of this debate is the damage that will be done by the Government’s decision to force Christian adoption agencies to close, by denying them a freedom of conscience exemption from the SORs.

    Please write to your MPs (for advice, see link below) asking them to attend the debate and to support the view that the Government should put the needs and welfare of children first, by allowing the excellent work of Christian adoption agencies to continue. It is vital that politicians are aware of the widely held view that Christian agencies should not be forced to close by making it illegal for them to hold to the Biblical and scientifically sound view that children are best placed in families with a father and a mother.


Links

Connolly Press Release

15 February 2007


CATHOLIC GRANDMOTHER TO APPEAL TO HOUSE OF LORDS FOLLOWING 'BIZARRE' JUDGEMENT BY HIGH COURT


A CATHOLIC grandmother is to appeal to the House of Lords after a High Court judge today (15FEB) made what she describes as "a most bizarre" judgment, creating a new political class in Britain.


On January 23, Veronica Connolly went to the High Court to ask for a Judicial Review to clarify the law on Human Rights and Free Speech. Mrs Connolly had previously been convicted under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 for trying to "educate" pharmacists who dispensed the 'Morning After Pill' to "another point of view".


In 2005, when the Government started to allow pharmacists to dispense the Morning After Pill over the counter, Mrs Connolly, a pro-life campaigner, telephoned her local pharmacists to ask if they were dispensing the pill and if they were, whether she could post them pro-life information. One local pharmacy, on receiving Mrs Connolly's information called the police. In October 2005, Mrs Connolly was charged and convicted of three offences under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the pharmacist claimed he and his staff were upset by the material and found it offensive. Mrs Connolly unsuccessfully appealed against conviction on January 27, 2006.


This morning, Lord Justice Dyson and Mr Justice Stanley Burnton handed down their judgment on the case. They ruled that whilst Mrs Connolly was entitled to send pictures of aborted foetuses in expression of her anti-abortion beliefs, they should have only been sent to people such as MPs, who have a direct opportunity to influence debate, or a change in the abortion law, not members of the public, even if they are professionals actively involved in the moral implications of such a law.


Mrs Connolly has instructed her legal team to appeal to the House of Lords. Paul Diamond is Counsel in the case.


She said: "This is the most bizarre ruling. Ordinary women and girls take the Morning-after Pill, and pharmacists and their staff hand it over the counter. They are all directly involved in the process of abortion, and they have a right to know the facts on both sides of the argument.


"What the judge is saying is that only MPs have a right to detailed information on social and moral and ethical issues, not the public. But on every moral issue which affects the public, it is everyone's democratic right to be able to obtain full information on which they can make an informed decision. Then, if they choose to do, they can campaign for a change in the law. That's democracy. What this ruling does is create a special political class as well as bringing in a new censorship on what sensitive information can be available to the electorate.


"The rational behind this judgment is flawed."


Mrs Connolly's case rests on the interpretation of Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgment comes in the same week the Lord Chancellor said he was to take steps to convince ordinary people that the Human Rights Act (which enshrines the ECHR), was necessary and was introduced for the benefit of all people in Britain.


Editor's Notes:


Key paragraphs from the Judgment:-


Para 28: To take a different example, suppose that it were Government policy to support abortion. A member of the Cabinet who spoke publicly in support of abortion and who received such photographs in his office in Westminster might well stand on a different footing from a member of the public who received them in the privacy of his home or at his place of work.


Para 32: I would hold that it has been convincingly shown that the conviction of Mrs Connolly on the facts of this case was necessary in a democratic society. Her right to express her views about abortion does not justify the distress and anxiety that she intended to cause those who received the photographs. Of particular significance is the fact that those who work in the three pharmacies were not targeted because they were in a position to influence a public debate on abortion. The most that Mrs Connolly could have hoped to achieve was to persuade those responsible in the pharmacies for their purchasing policies to stop selling the "morning after pill". But it was always likely that the photographs would be seen by persons who had no such responsibility and it was by no means certain that they would be seen by the persons who had that responsibility. In any event, even if the three pharmacies were persuaded to stop selling the pill, it is difficult to see what contribution this would make to any public debate about abortion generally and how that would increase the likelihood that abortion would be prohibited. I would, therefore, dismiss the appeal in so far as it is based on article 10 of the Convention.


European Convention on Human Rights


Article 9 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion


1 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2 Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.


Article 10 Freedom of expression

1 Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2 The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

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