Results of the consultation have been published and the full details can been seen on the Council website here.
The results are overwhelmingly in favour of creating a Buffer Zone and will hopefully be impossible for the Council to ignore.
The consultation received 3,011 responses and there were 1,152 additional emails, calls and letters. Of those respondents 69% live in the borough of Richmond upon Thames. 11.6% live inside the proposed buffer zone and 57.7% outside of the zone but within the borough. There is a map of the distribution of responses in the full consultation report here. 42% of responses can be categorised as ‘directly affected’ by the introduction of a buffer zone as per the proposed PSPO.
The headline results of the consultation include:
- 81% agreed or strongly agreed that protestor/vigil holders’ behaviours have had a detrimental effect on them or others in the local area. Of directly affected respondents, this rises to 88%.
- 80% agree with the proposal to implement a buffer zone. Of directly affected respondents, this rises to 88%.
- 71% agree with the boundaries of the proposed buffer zone, rising to 80% of those directly affected.
- 82% disagreed with the option to introduce a designated area.
As a result of the consultation The Director of Public Health will be submitting a recommendation to the Regulatory Committee for members to agree the recommendation to introduce a PSPO around the BPAS Clinic in Rosslyn Road. The Regulatory Committee are meeting in the evening of Wednesday 6th Feb and a vote will be held to determine next steps. Any decisions taken on 6th Feb will need to be presented to and ratified by the Full Council which will next meet on Tuesday 5th March. The recommendation to introduce a PSPO is made on the basis that the evidence presented meets the two conditions contained in section 59 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (the Act), namely that:
- activities carried on in a public place within the local authority’s area have had a detrimental effect on the quality of those in the locality or it is likely that activities will be carried on in a public place within that area and that they will have such an effect; and
- that the effect, or likely effect of the activities a) is, or is likely to be, of a persistent or continuing nature b) is, or is likely to be, such as to make the activities unreasonable, and c) justifies the restrictions imposed by the notice.
We wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to the consultation - as you can see from the sheer number of responses, this was something the local community felt strongly about and working together we will hopefully bring around real change for the area.
1) Would a buffer zone threaten the freedom of speech of the protestors?
This question was answered in full by Cllr Roger Crouch at the 16th Oct '18 Regulatory Committee meeting and the full text of his statement can be found here.
In summary: Opponents of the PSPO deploy the ‘freedom of speech’ argument. We believe freedom of speech and expression is a basic human right to be cherished, however, that freedom of speech should not go completely unfettered particularly where there is demonstrable harm to others. Freedom of speech outside the Rosslyn Road clinic means harassment and intimidation of women, and the staff at the clinic, who are accessing a service which is legal and understandably needs to be discreetly provided. It is not a debate but targeting of women for making legal and medical choices.
2) Can I still support this proposal if I am opposed to abortion?
Yes you can! We recognise that there are a broad range of opinions regarding abortion and indeed many of those opinions are represented by members of the Reclaim Rosslyn Road group.
We believe that the area outside the clinic is not the right place to hold debate on whether abortion itself is right or wrong and that women having to make that decision should be allowed to do so unhindered by harassment or intimidation and with preservation of their anonymity.
It is possible to oppose abortion and still recognise the fact that it is wrong to harrass and intimidate someone and in fact other anti-abortion groups do not use the same methods. It is possible to support women considering abortion without being a threatening presence outside the clinic.
Finally, bear in mind that the protesters do not just target women who are getting an abortion. They engage with teenage girls who are passing by and basically any woman of child-bearing age. They also approach women who have had a miscarriage and need medical care at the clinic. In this, they cause a lot of harm to people who have nothing to do with abortion.
3) I don't understand what the problem is? Isn't it just people praying and handing out leaflets?
If you pass the clinic without needing to access its service, you could think the protest is innocuous: a handful of people standing together, another person handing out leaflets and rosaries, possibly some placards with bible quotes.
However the leaflets contain incorrect and frightening medical statements - that abortion is linked to breast cancer and that women who have abortions suffer problems bonding with future children. Huge pressure is put on any woman engaging with the protesters not to enter the clinic and they show women graphic images on their phones.
Please read a few of the statements collected from staff, clients and local residents to get an idea of how damaging these interactions can be - Evidence Pack
4) How long have the protests been going on?
At least since September 2013.
5) How many take part in the protest?
During the week it is usually 1-4 protestors and can be a dozen or more on Fridays and especially Saturdays.
6) What days and times?
7) What form do the protests take and where do they stand?
The protest is one of three organised by the “Good Counsel Network” (GCN) outside clinics in London. Their website states: “we aim to approach each woman offering her help and support to continue her pregnancy. While one or two designated people make this outreach, all the others attending remain in constant prayer for the women, their children, the abortuary [sic] staff and the other people involved in her decision.”
One protestor usually stands next to the gate outside the clinic. This protestor has mentioned to us that she was paid to do this. The others stand on the opposite side of the road. On Saturdays in particular, (as confirmed on the GCN website) there is a “vigil… 8am-12noon every week run by the Helpers of God's Precious Infants”.
In some years the clinic has been among those targeted in the annual “40 Days for Life” protests, facilitated by the GCN and organised globally by a Texas-based organisation of the same name, resulting in increased activity.
8) Do they have placards/leaflets with/without graphic photos?
Currently, they use placards, leaflets, photos on their smartphones.
- The placards contain religious sayings and leaflets.
- The leaflets contain medical “advice” that has been scientifically disproved by the WHO, yet is designed to frighten clinic users, notably by claiming an association between abortion and breast cancer. It also states that abortion can “damage the maternal instinct and to bonding process with any other children”. There are no graphic photos on the placards or leaflets but they do have photos on their phones which are graphic.
9) Is it a silent protest or are the women approached and spoken to?
The protestors will approach anyone going in to the clinic and some passers-by. They sometimes sing, pray and chant outside the clinic.
10) Who is impacted by the protestors?
Clinic users and people supporting them, local residents, clinic staff, users of the adjacent GP practice, users of the nearby ETNA community centre (which includes a nursery). Passers-by are also approached - any woman of child-bearing age, including teenage girls. Users of the future Deer Park primary school on Richmond Road will also be affected.
11) Who do clients complain to and are the complaints recorded anywhere?
Complaints are made to the clinic – either by way of a handwritten statement at the time or by online form. Since a complaints system was established in 2014, the clinic has collected over 500 reports. We have included a subset of these in our Evidence Pack.