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Pensioner charged for offering women opportunity to talk outside abortion clinics

by Donna Birrell

A Dorset pensioner is facing trial after holding up a sign near an abortion clinic which read: “Here to talk if you want to.”

While Livia Tossici-Bolt was holding the sign at the facility in Bournemouth, several individuals approached her to discuss issues they were facing in their lives.

Local authorities confronted the 62 year old alleging that she had breached a local abortion “buffer zone”, which bans expression of approval or disapproval of abortion. They issued a Fixed Penalty Notice, which Tossici-Bolt refused to pay, on the grounds that she had the right, protected under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, to offer consensual conversations.

However she was charged by Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council and the retired medical scientist is now awaiting a trial date.

Livia Tossici-Bolt, whose legal defence is being supported by ADF UK (Alliance Defending Freedom UK) said :

“We all condemn harassment. But ‘buffer zones’ are going so far even to criminalise activities which are peaceful and helpful. For several years now, I have been offering a helping hand to women who would like to consider other options to abortion, and pointing them to options where they can receive financial and practical support, if that’s what they would like. There’s nothing wrong with offering help. There’s nothing wrong with two adults engaging in a consensual conversation on the street. I shouldn’t be treated like a criminal just for this.”

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK said :

“Under vaguely-written local “buffer zone” measures, we have seen volunteers like Livia criminalised simply for offering help to women in need; and others dragged through courts for praying, even silently, in their minds. 

“The principle of freedom of thought and speech must be defended both within and outside ‘buffer zones’. The Home Office have sought to keep our country in line with international law by protecting freedom of thought and of consensual conversation in the draft buffer zone guidance. It is vital, for the preservation of democracy, that this stands.”

It's the second attempt to charge Ms Tossici-Bolt - Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council recently apologised for causing her to feel “distressed and harassed” when officers attempted to move her from a public street. She was standing alone and holding a sign reading “Pregnant? Need help?” with a helpline number for women in crisis pregnancies.

The authorities have since acknowledged that she was not within the censored buffer zone.

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