Bernadette Smyth: conviction and restraining order quashed

Anti abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth was cleared on appeal yesterday. She had initially been convicted of harassing Dawn Purvis at the end of last year.

At the original trail the judge Chris Holmes made a number of interesting comments. He stated:

“I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not feel it’s appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion and questioned either to their identity, why they are going in there and being forced to involve themselves in conversation at times when they are almost certainly going to be stressed and very possibly distressed.”

He imposed a community service order on Ms. Smyth, made her pay compensation and banned her from going within 20 yards of the clinic for 5 years.

Possibly most strangely he criticised Ms. Smyth’s defence team stating: “This case was run, no-holds barred, in a vicious and malicious fashion.” He also accused the defence of slandering both a woman police officer and Ms. Purvis.

The appeal could scarcely have been more different.

On this occasion (from the Belfast Telegraph) Ms. Smyth’s barrister Mark Mulholland QC cited the alleged victim’s former role within the Progressive Unionist Party, noting its political alignment to the Ulster Volunteer Force.
Questioning her claims to have been intimidated by his client, he put it to her: “Are you not a person with a bit more fortitude than that?”

At the end of the prosecution’s evidence before the defence began Mr. Mulholand QC applied for the case to be thrown out and the judge agreed ruling that the evidence did not meet the standard required for a successful prosecution.

Today the restraining order against Ms. Smyth was also lifted meaning that she is free to conduct peaceful protest against the Marie Stopes clinic. Ms Purvis has also moved on and was linked in May with the Victims’ Commissioner post.