Zealot’s conviction ‘a blow to Christians’
Bernadette Smyth, 52, above, a ‘vicious’ anti-abortion protester convicted of harassing a Marie Stopes clinic director in Belfast, has been sentenced to 100 hours community service.
According to this report, Smyth’s solicitor, Aidan Carlin, said her conviction was:
A disappointment for Christians worldwide.
He hopes the conviction it will be overturned at an appeal next year.
A five-year restraining order from pestering Dawn Purvis or anyone seeking to enter the clinic was also imposed. Smyth – winner of a Catholic of the Year award – has also been excluded from going within 20 yards of the clinic.
She had denied harassing Purvis, above, a former assembly member, on two dates earlier this year.
However, on Wednesday a judge at Belfast Magistrates Court said:
The behaviour of stopping people, questioning them about why they were going into the premises, was a direct harassment of Dawn Purvis.
After the sentencing, Purvis said:
The fact that someone in a position of authority in Northern Ireland has stood up and said ‘this is inappropriate behaviour you have crossed the line and it’s not acceptable’ is really, really important not only for us and the staff that work in the clinic but for the hundreds and hundreds of women that use our services.
Anti-abortion campaigners have been protesting at the door of the Marie Stopes clinic since it opened in Belfast two years ago.
It is the first private organisation to offer early medical abortions in Northern Ireland, where the legislation regarding pregnancy termination is much more strict than in the rest of the UK.
A woman can only have an abortion if it can be proven that her life is at risk, or if there is a serious danger of permanent damage to her mental or physical health.
As she left the court, supporters of Mrs Smyth, some of whom had earlier formed a prayer circle in the public waiting area, cheered and clapped.