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Court clears anti-abortion campaigners

21 September 2012

by a staff reporter

ANTI-ABORTION campaigners have hailed a court judgment that dismisses all criminal charges against two activists as a victory for freedom of speech.

A judge at Brighton Magistrates Court dismissed all charges against Andrew Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane, members of the group Abort67, who had been arrested after demonstrating outside an abortion clinic in the city. The pair were charged with breaching the Public Order Act by displaying images "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress".

In his ruling, published on Tuesday, Judge Stephen Nicholson said that he accepted that witnesses who complained about the images found them graphic, but the images were not "aggressive, threatening, or insulting".

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which supported the defendants, said that it was now seeking an urgent meeting with the Association of Chief Police Officers to discuss the interpretation of the Public Order Act by police.

The chief executive of the CLC, Andrea Minichiello Williams, 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." She was seeking a meeting with the Association of Chief Police Officers.

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