PRO-CHOICE campaigners welcomed the conviction today of anti-abortion activist Bernadette Smyth for threatening and harassing Dawn Purvis of the Marie Stopes family planning service in Belfast.
Judge Chris Holmes said he would sentence Ms Smyth on December 17, noting that the leader of pressure group Precious Life had engaged in “vicious and malicious slander” of Ms Purvis and of police officers investigating the case.
The Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast is the only private facility in Northern Ireland which offers abortions and has seen repeated anti-abortion protests.
Ms Smyth and others stationed themselves outside the building, demanding that any women “of child-bearing age” trying to enter explain their reasons for doing so.
When Ms Purvis challenged her to stop her harassment campaign, Ms Smyth told her: “You ain’t seen harassment yet, darling.”
Another protester had followed a young girl, a friend of Ms Purvis’s son, up the street — and when told to “leave them alone” Ms Smyth began cackling and laughing in an exaggerated way, the court heard.
Belfast Alliance for Choice’s Kelly O’Dowd told the Star she was “delighted” with the conviction.
“I support everybody’s right to protest, but the way women were being harassed by Smyth was unacceptable,” she said.
Communist Party of Ireland chairwoman Lynda Walker said: “This is a welcome conviction — she certainly deserves it and the help Dawn Purvis gives to women going through abortions is essential.
“But if our laws were brought up to date we wouldn’t see cases like this.”