The High Court has upheld a ban on pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics

On October 20 last year, Kevin Bigg, a homeless man, was sitting in a small park by Hardwicke Circus, Carlisle. A child who was passing threw a couple of pound coins into Bigg’s sleeping bag. Unfortunately for Bigg, he had been warned by police not to beg in the area.

He claimed he had not been begging, just sitting there. But along with three other incidents, the court ruled that he had been begging. He was fined £105. The reason for this dates back to 2014, when the Coalition government came up with a new measure. Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) allow councils to criminalise activities within a certain space. Like ASBOs, which preceded them, PSPOs give power to councils to address specific issues, making new rules which, if you break them, could land you with a fine or prison sentence. But while ASBOs were directed against individuals – they criminalised a farmer whose geese were running riot, a teenager playing football in the street, a woman who was playing her Glenn Miller records at deafening volumes – PSPOs make certain activities illegal, whoever you are, if they happen in a particular area: begging, dog-walking, certain forms of street advertising. And, it now appears, holding the wrong opinions.

On Monday, the High Court upheld Ealing Council’s PSPO banning pro-life vigils within 100 metres (330 feet) of an abortion clinic in the west London borough. The vigils were fairly simple affairs: people saying the rosary, or handing out leaflets explaining the help that was available. A small but significant minority of women took up the help, dropped the idea of an abortion, and now have babies.

It may have been partly the success of the vigils which angered pro-abortion activists. And Ealing was a test case for banning pro-lifers. The Home Office is currently looking into prohibiting such vigils – a measure publicly supported by more than 100 MPs including Jeremy Corbyn.

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