Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
An anti-abortion campaigner has lost his appeal against a court ruling in favour of Waltham Forest Council’s ban on using “distressing” posters of unborn babies.
Christian Hacking, an employee of the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform UK (CBRUK), hoped to overturn a ban on displaying the large photos of foetuses during protests.
A council officer issued Hacking with a Community Protection Notice (CPN) on 3rd October last year, after a protest in Walthamstow Town Square was said to cause distress to residents.
On 6th May a judge ruled the display, which was nine square metres in size, was the “visual equivalent of shouting both loudly and directly into a person’s face” and upheld the council’s decision.
After CBRUK appealed this ruling, a Thames Magistrates’ Court judge rejected the appeal on Tuesday 7th July
A Waltham Forest Council spokesperson said: “We are glad that the court agreed in its judgement delivered in May that our actions to protect residents of Waltham Forest against distressing imagery being displayed in Walthamstow town centre were proportionate.
“We acted after receiving numerous complaints from members of the public about these images.
“We fundamentally believe in free speech and the right to protest. However, we also believe that those who live, work, and study in the borough have the right to use their town centre without being confronted with unnecessarily graphic and upsetting material.”
Though Hacking and fellow campaigners argued the ban infringed their human rights, District Judge Jonathan Radway ruled in May that the display was “beyond the margin of what freedom of expression requires, even for political speech”.
The CPN does not affect the group’s other campaign activity but bans any use of large photos of foetuses, whether aborted or living.
CBRUK is the same organisation that has organised a number of demonstrations against Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, whose amendment in parliament led to the extension of abortion rights to Northern Ireland.
Responding to the outcome in May, Hacking said he was “deeply disappointed” and that, in his view, it was the foetus and not those negatively impacted by the display which was “the real victim of abortion”.