'Safe Zone’ Upheld

The safe zone, the first of its kind in the UK, was introduced following an investigation by Ealing Council which established that behaviours of Pro-Life vigil members and protesters outside were having a detrimental effect on clinic patients, staff, local residents and those visiting the area.

In what was a robust and emphatic decision Mr Justice Turner dismissed the legal challenge, agreeing with Ealing’s argument that behaviours outside the clinic had had a detrimental effect on people in the locality and he supported Ealing’s position that Article 8 Convention Rights of clinic services users were engaged.

In response to the claimants argument that the order infringed the rights of vigil members and protesters to express their religious views and to protest, the court agreed that the provision of a designated area within the Safe Zone mitigated this impact. 

The court also rejected the claimants’ argument that there had been insufficient evidence and that different enforcement action (such as injunctions) should have been used, agreeing with the council that the investigation had independently established the distressing impact of the behaviours outside the clinic and concluded it would have been unrealistic for Ealing to use alternative measures.

The decision means the safe zone remains in place in full, preventing certain behaviours in the immediate locality of the clinic, which were found to have been having a detrimental effect on those in the locality. 

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council said: “We are pleased that HHJ Turner has upheld the PSPO at Mattock Lane, sending a clear signal to those that have denied that there is evidence of unacceptable behaviour having a detrimental effect on persons at the location.

“We continue to call on the Home Secretary to review our evidence and action, which shows activities which we suspect are similar to activities happening up and down the country on a daily basis.  We call on the Home Secretary to save other Councils the significant costs that have been incurred in this matter, and to make specific legislation in respect of such activities in the interests of people all over the country.”

Councillor Binda Rai, cabinet member for health and adults’ services, and local ward councillor for Mattock Lane said: “I am thrilled with today's judgement because it is fair and just.  Today is a victory for a woman's right to access legally available medical and healthcare support without facing judgement and harassment.

“I am exceptionally proud of all women in Ealing who have fought hard to get this outcome. This PSPO is a local solution for Ealing but we still need government to look from a national perspective to address so all women can access healthcare without judgement and harassment. I am pleased to have represented women and residents in my ward to achieve this outcome."

Councillor Joanne Camadoo, cabinet member for community safety and inclusion said: “There was a problem and something had to be done. The behaviours affecting local residents and those accessing legally available medical services were totally unacceptable and clearly did have a detrimental effect.  Since the safe zone was implemented in April, we have seen a dramatic reduction in those behaviours, confirming to us that we were right to take this action in the interest of those people living in the locality of Mattock Lane, and those who visit the area for whatever reason.  The actions of the officers who investigated, implemented and continue to monitor the safe zone have been exemplary and I thank them for all their efforts and work.”

The cost to the council of defending the legal challenge has been £90,000 to date.  The council will only be able to recoup £5,000 of those costs as both sides are subject to a reciprocal protected costs order which caps recoverable costs at £5,000.