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Ealing to be the first in the UK to consider safe zone outside abortion clinic

Ealing Council cabinet members will decide on Tuesday, 10 April 2018 if the council will implement a safe zone around a sexual health clinic on Mattock Lane.

Before reaching a decision, the council’s cabinet will consider the evidence gathered, over several months, about activity outside the Marie Stopes clinic. It will also review the views of people who took part in a public consultation.

The eight-week public consultation concluded on Monday, 26 March 2018 and received 2,181 online survey responses and more than 1500 emails and letters. Council officers also consulted with police, community representatives and people living and working in the proposed safe zone area.

The behaviours outside the clinic were highlighted through a petition submitted to the council in July 2017. The petition, organised by local women, called on the council to explore ways of introducing a ‘buffer zone’ outside the clinic and was signed by 3,593 local people.

The report prepared by the council’s community safety team recommends that a safe zone be introduced. The recommendations in the report have been put forward to address certain behaviours by members of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups outside the clinic.

Before a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) can be agreed, councillors must be satisfied that it is both necessary and would provide a proportionate response to the issues that have been identified which involve intimidation, harassment and distress. Councillors will consider whether the need to provide safe, unimpeded access to the clinic in the safe zone can be balanced with the Equality Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Councillors will need to consider if the behaviours have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the area or it is likely that such activities will continue and will have detrimental effect.

If councillors agree that a PSPO is necessary, the safe zone can be introduced immediately. If a PSPO is introduced, anyone who breaches the order would be committing a criminal offence and can be fined or prosecuted under the law.

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