Appeal against Walthamstow abortion poster ruling fails

An anti-abortion group whose employee lost a court case against Waltham Forest Council in May had their appeal rejected yesterday.

Mr Christian Hacking, an employee of the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform UK (CBRUK), hoped to overturn a ban on displaying large photos of foetuses during protests.

A council officer issued Mr Hacking with a Community Protection Order on October 3 last year, after a protest in Walthamstow Town Square caused distress to residents.

On May 6 a judge ruled the display, which was 10 feet by 10 feet, was the “visual equivalent of shouting both loudly and directly into a person’s face” and upheld the council’s decision.

After CBRUK appealed this ruling, a Thames Magistrates’ Court judge rejected the appeal yesterday (July 7).

A Waltham Forest Council spokesperson said: “We are glad that the court agreed in its judgement delivered on Tuesday, May 5 that our actions to protect residents of Waltham Forest against distressing imagery being displayed in Walthamstow town centre were proportionate.

“We acted after receiving numerous complaints from members of the public about these images.

“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 confronted with unnecessarily graphic and upsetting material.”

Though Mr Hacking and fellow campaigners argued the ban infringed their human rights, District Judge Jonathan M Radway ruled in May that the display was “beyond the margin of what freedom of expression requires, even for political speech”.

The CPN does not affect the group’s other campaign activity but bans any use of large photos of foetuses, whether aborted or living.

Mr Hacking is an employee the Centre for Bioethical Reform UK (CBR UK), which organised a number of demonstrations against local MP Stella Creasy after her amendment extending abortion rights to Northern Ireland.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter