Clarify police powers to prevent anti-choice intimidation

21 December 2017

Anti-choice intimidation is on the rise in London with some women patients and healthcare staff subjected to daily harassment from anti-choice campaigners.  

A motion agreed today, called for the Mayor to clarify the powers of the Metropolitan Police to arrest and prosecute anti-choice campaigners, who intimidate and harass women outside family planning clinics.

Fiona Twycross AM, who proposed the motion said:

“No woman should ever be subjected to intimidation, particularly during what is a very personal, and often difficult, time. This is not about infringing on freedom of speech but stopping the infringement of women’s rights to safety and privacy.
 
We need clear guidelines about the police’s power to arrest and prosecute those resorting to obstruction, intimidation and harassment. Not only would this encourage more patients and health workers to come forward to report intimidation, it would also send the strongest message yet that zero tolerance will be shown to threatening behaviour of this kind in the capital.”

The full text of the motion is:

This Assembly notes with concern the lack of protection afforded to women patients and healthcare staff, many of whom face daily harassment from anti-choice campaigners protesting outside family planning clinics, and calls upon the Mayor to address the rise in anti-choice intimidation being experienced in London. This Assembly recognises the right of anti-choice campaigners to freedom of speech but this should never override a patient’s right to safety and privacy, or the rights of healthcare staff to work in environments that are free of intimidation.

This Assembly welcomes the Government’s review to assess whether the police, healthcare providers and local authorities have the right powers to protect women wishing to access services to which they are legally entitled. However, we note that there are powers currently available to the police to prevent anti-choice campaigners from intimidating or harassing staff and patients. Therefore, the Assembly asks the Mayor to clarify the powers available to the MPS to arrest and prosecute anti-choice campaigners who resort to obstruction, intimidation and harassment, so that clinics and patients have the confidence to report it. This would send a clear message that threatening behaviour will not be tolerated on the streets of London.
 

Notes to editors

  1.  Watch the full webcast.
  2. The motion was agreed by 12 votes for and 3 votes against.
  3. Fiona Twycross AM, who proposed the motion, is available for interviews. Please see contact details below.
  4. Watch Fiona Twycross AM explain why she proposed this motion.
  5. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

For media enquiries, please contact Lisa Lam on 020 7983 4067.  For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officer.  Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.