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Christian campaigner who targeted pregnant MP with anti-abortion poster has ban upheld

by Press Association

A Christian anti-abortion campaigner banned from posting composite huge pictures of Labour MP Stella Creasy and a dead foetus in her constituency has failed in a legal challenge to overturn the decision.

Christian Hacking sought to challenge the community protection notice (CPN) during a two-day court hearing in February, after Waltham Forest Borough Council banned him from displaying the images in north east London borough in October last year, while Ms Creasy was pregnant.

Mr Hacking, 29, from south London, urged the court to reconsider the matter on human rights grounds, comparing the emotional impact of the display to that of the pictures of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body was pictured in news stories around the world highlighting the Syrian refugee crisis after it washed up on a beach in 2015.

But the district judge Jonathan Radway dismissed the appeal during a two-minute hearing at Thames Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

In his written judgment, he said: "I find a prolonged static display, intended to last a couple of hours in the busy middle of the day, unavoidable to those entering the town square, of a deeply disturbing image which caused harm to some observers is beyond the margin of what freedom of expression requires, even for political speech.

"Was the CPN a proportionate response to the situation?

"After anxious consideration, I have concluded it was."

The judge said his ruling was "not about the rights and wrongs of abortion".

Council leader Clare Coghill welcomed the ruling, and said the authority acted after receiving "numerous complaints" about the "gratuitously offensive imagery" being displayed so prominently.

She said: "We fundamentally believe in free speech and the right to protest.

"However, we also believe that those who live, work, and study in the borough have the right to use their town centre without being aggressively confronted with deliberately provocative material."

Ms Creasy, who supported efforts to bring about a change in the law to see abortion decriminalised in Northern Ireland, previously told MPs how she felt "harassed" by the campaign and sought police assistance.

Mr Hacking, from campaign group Centre for Bio-ethical Reform UK, said the 10ft by 10ft (3m by 3m) poster was designed to educate the public about abortion.

The bloody image, which Mr Hacking called "24-week-old aborted baby girl" was hung alongside an image of Ms Creasy's face in the north London town centre, as part of a so-called #StopStella event on October 3.

Mr Hacking told a previous hearing at Stratford Magistrates' Court: "The whole business of what we do is exposing the reality of abortion to members of the public who don't know what abortion looks like.

"Generally speaking, we know that the public are misinformed by what abortion procedures entail."

However, one witness, a local resident, told the court she felt "truly sick in her stomach" on seeing the image, and had "been left feeling anxious and nervous when approaching the location in town".

The community protection notice issued to Mr Hacking bans him from displaying the images in the borough of Waltham Forest.

Ms Creasy, 43, has been MP for Walthamstow since 2010, and gave birth to her first child, a daughter, in November 2019.

Neither Mr Hacking nor Ms Creasy were present in court for the hearing on Wednesday.

Before the ruling, Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "If we are not free to protest abortion then we are not free at all in this society.

"District Judge Jonathan Radway has heard front-line and senior members of Waltham Forest Council admit to acting unlawfully. 
"Stella Creasy has not enjoyed being exposed to the realities of her own pro-abortion campaign. To campaign to legalise abortion means that we have to face up to its tragic reality. Instead, Stella is using all the power she has to shut it down.

"We are determined to fight for justice in this case as we stand with Christian Hacking and CBR UK."

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