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Pro-life activist sentenced over harassment

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Issued by Christian Concern

News Release

For immediate release
17 December 2014

Bernadette Smyth, who leads the pro-life group Precious Life, has been convicted of harassing Ms. Dawn Purvis, the manager of a Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast. Bernadette Smyth has been ordered by a court:

  • To complete 100 hours of community service
  • To pay £2,000 in compensation to Ms. Dawn Purvis
  • To not go within 20 yards of the premises for the next five years

Good character and clear record

Bernadette Smyth had been warned she could face prison when convicted last month, on two counts of harassment against Ms. Purvis.

However Judge Chris Holmes when passing the sentence at Belfast Magistrates Court said he had taken into account Smyth’s good character and clear record, saying:

“You are somebody of impeccable character. You are somebody from an obviously good background and have worked very hard with the community over a long time.

“I am prepared to accept all of that”

“We do not harass or intimidate”

Precious Life, the group which is led by Bernadette Smyth, holds demonstrations to educate the public about the true nature of abortion. It has been holding these demonstrations outside the Belfast clinic since it opened two years ago.

Bernadette Smyth has said through her solicitor that the sentence would be a “disappointment for Christians worldwide”. Having previously said: “The sole purpose of our presence outside the Marie Stopes centre in Belfast is to defend human life and reach out with support to mothers with unexpected pregnancies.

“We do not harass or intimidate — we lovingly reach out to women with practical, caring solutions which uphold the dignity of both mother and child. Women deserve better than abortion.”

Andrea Williams responded to the conviction saying: "This is case of vital importance for freedom of speech and we will continue to support Bernadette Smyth in all her endeavours to confront the devastating consequences of abortion, for both the pre-born child and the mother."

"Another step towards justice"

Commenting on the case, Solicitor Aiden Carlin said: “Today marks another step towards justice for Bernadette Smyth who was wrongfully convicted of harassment on 19th November 2014. She was sentenced today to pay £2,000 compensation and received a five-year restraining order to stay away from Dawn Purvis or anyone seeking to enter Marie Stopes. Bernadette Smyth has also been excluded from going within 20 yards of the Belfast clinic. This sentence is also subject of Appeal and has no effect in the meantime.”

Aiden Carlin continued: “Article 9 of the Convention provides that a person has the right to manifest their religion through teaching. Bernadette Smyth has attended at Great Victoria Street to reach out as a Christian to couples in crisis. In doing so she is exercising her right to impart her faith and has been a visible witness for the Pro-life movement for approximately 17 years. Article 10 of the Convention provides that the person has the right to impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. Again, the subject of these proceedings is a prayer vigil and an outreach on Great Victoria Street in Belfast. Article 11 of the Convention provides for the right of peaceful assembly. Bernadette Smyth was exercising that right on both occasions.”

Aiden Carlin concluded: “Those who stand and pray outside Marie Stopes and other abortion facilities throughout the UK and Ireland are as much a part of society as the rest. Bernadette Smyth is a very highly respected Christian who has earned public recognition for her tireless work. She has campaigned worldwide on behalf of the unborn for over 17 years. Bernadette Smyth has totally refuted this allegation and invites Christians everywhere to follow the next stage of her landmark case which has the potential to shape how the law is interpreted and applied in future.”


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