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Council mulls consultation on public space protection order to protect health clinic

The Cabinet at the London Borough of Ealing will next week (16 January) consider whether to authorise a consultation on a possible Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around a Marie Stopes clinic.

The council said the PSPO would aim to prevent intimidation, harassment and distress.

The possible consultation on a PSPO follows the passing of a motion by full council at Ealing in October last year which tasked council officers with investigating and identifying the options.

The motion was in response to a petition presented by pro-choice group Sister Supporter calling for the council to end intimidation and harassment of service users when visiting the sexual health clinic on Mattock Lane. The motion received cross-party support.

The council said that from the evidence gathered, 11 potential options were identified to manage the behaviours outside the clinic including a compromise agreement, alterations to the clinic and patient arrival arrangements, byelaws and a PSPO.

Councillors from all parties and council officers at Ealing met with local pro-choice and pro-life groups to discuss if a mutual agreement could be made between the parties. However, the council said it now appeared that this was “unlikely to be achieved”.

Ealing said its officers, having considered all the options, thought a PSPO was “potentially the most appropriate measure to protecting people entering and passing through the area outside the clinic from being intimidated and distressed”.   

A decision on whether or not to make a PSPO will only be made once the consultation process has been completed and it is known whether or not the statutory criteria are met, including whether a PSPO will be a necessary and proportionate response to the issues that have been identified.

If Ealing’s Cabinet approve the commencement of statutory consultation into a potential PSPO then this will last eight weeks.

Council leader Julian Bell said: “We are committed to ending the intimidation and harassment faced by those seeking legally available medical support, but we are hamstrung by the powers we have available. We will do what we can locally but our powers are limited. We are pleased that the government has responded to the pressure from Ealing and other local authorities and is looking at a national solution.”

In November the Home Secretary ordered an in-depth assessment of protests outside abortion clinics following concerns about the tactics of some protesters.

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