A grandmother who was fined after silently praying outside an abortion clinic has been vindicated, following a year-long fight for justice.
Rosa Lalor, who was wearing a face mask and listening to a prayer app on her headphones when she was stopped by a police officer during coronavirus restrictions, was accused of protesting, and issued with a fixed penalty notice, according to human rights group, ADF UK.
Mrs Lalor, from Merseyside, said: “I took this challenge forward with support from ADF UK to show that we do all have a fundamental right to pray – not least pray as I did, in the privacy of my own mind. It was wrong for the police officer to tell me that I could not pray in a public street.”
Lois McLatchie, ADF UK’s communications officer said Rosa, 76, “wouldn’t hurt a fly”, yet was embarrassed by the public exchange and subjected to “an uncomfortable and difficult year” which should never have happened.
Miss McLatchie said the incident, far from being isolated, is part of the ripple effect of legislation starting to appear, to do with “buffer zones” which would make it illegal for people to gather outside abortion clinics or speak to women entering them.
She said: “We all stand against harassment, nobody is looking for anyone to be harassed outside an abortion facility or anywhere at all... And police officers have the powers to deal with harassment if it occurs. So what buffer zones really do is they go much broader, and they put a blanket ban on any pro-life activity in the vicinity of an abortion centre. And that could be offering help, offering financial or emotional or practical help to women who would like to continue their pregnancies if they had another choice.”
She added: “Rosa is just the most lovely lady. She wouldn't hurt a fly. She'd never broken a law in her life. It's just unthinkable.”
The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Northern Ireland Bill to prevent “influencing” a person, whether directly or indirectly, within 100m of abortion facilities, will face scrutiny at the UK Supreme Court on 19-20th July. The Northern Ireland Attorney General, Dame Brenda King, has referred the bill to the Supreme Court citing concerns that the bill omits a defence of ‘reasonable excuse’ and is therefore incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Merseyside Police were approached for a comment.