Christian protesters charged by police over displaying graphic anti-abortion banner
PUBLISHED July 15, 2012
Andy Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane will stand trial in what their supporters say will be a landmark case concerning freedom of expression.
The pair were arrested in June last year outside Wistons abortion clinic in Brighton, after they refused to take down a 7ft by 5ft illustrated banner.
They will appear before magistrates in September after the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges against them.
Mr Stephenson, 37, a father of three, has been charged with causing "harassment, alarm or distress" under the Public Order Act 1986, and with obstructing a police officer by refusing to hand over the banner. Miss Sloane, 21, faces one count of obstruction.
They are both committed Christians and members of Abort '67, a pro-life group which uses shocking images, obtained in America, to try to deter women from going through with terminations.
Mr Stephenson, from Worthing, West Sussex, said: "We are as passionate about free speech as we are about the abortion issue.
"Showing these images is absolutely crucial to our campaign. We are determined to fight it all the way."
He added: "All we were doing was showing what is taking place legally inside abortion clinic every day, some of which are funded by the taxpayer."
Abort '67 say their use of graphic imagery is critical in shaping public opinion about the 200,000 terminations which take place in Britain each year.
The two campaigners are being represented by Paul Diamond, a leading human rights barrister.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "This is an important test case for freedom of expression in our nation.
"Andy and Kathryn were simply displaying true images about the reality of abortion. Such images should not be suppressed from the public consciousness any more than pictures of famine or the reality of war.
"If we cannot face the pictures how can we conceive of endorsing the reality?"
Obstructing a police officer can carry a maximum term of 51 weeks' imprisonment but offences are usually dealt with by a fine or community order.