Carmarthen preacher Stephen Green fined for abortion clinic protest

Stephen green
Stephen Green was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £2,426

A preacher who protested outside an abortion clinic has been convicted of breaching a protection order.

Stephen Green, 72, held a sign bearing a religious verse in a part of Ealing, west London, covered by a public spaces protection order (PSPO) last February.

Outside the MSI Reproductive Choices Clinic, it was the first such zone to be introduced in the UK.

Green's conviction was welcomed by campaigners who said people were fed-up of seeing behaviour like his.

Green was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £2,426 in costs and surcharge.

His lawyer told Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on Thursday his client intended to appeal his conviction.

Green, of Carmarthen in west Wales, held what was described in court as a "large sign" displaying the psalm text "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb".

He had pleaded not guilty and proclaimed his right to freedom of speech.

District Judge Kathryn Verghis said he "pointedly and intentionally" included the words "in my mother's womb" as a protest.

She said displaying those words outside an abortion clinic amounted to "an expression of disapproval as envisaged by the order".

Judge Verghis accepted the protest had been peaceful, but attached "great weight" to the fact he could have protested in an area not covered by the order.

The court heard clinic staff were diverted from their work to deal with the protest, and that residents challenged Green, but that there was no evidence of any clinic patients suffering.

MSI Reproductive Choices spokeswoman, Louise McCudden, said: "People are fed up with seeing behaviour like Stephen Green's in their communities, which is why Parliament voted to protect clinics across England and Wales."

She said the verdict showed national legislation must be implemented urgently so women can access abortion "safe from harassment".

The conviction comes a day after Home Secretary James Cleverly said his department was listening to consultation responses supporting the introduction of "safe access zones" around abortion clinics.

Campaigners want national legislation, saying PSPOs can result in a postcode lottery.

In Parliament last year, MPs voted against attempts to allow "silent prayer" outside clinics under the new law.

Proposed draft guidance states prayer itself within a zone "should not automatically be seen as unlawful", but added that "where an individual is praying, but their conduct is also intrusive, this is likely to be an offence".