Pro-life groups across Ireland have welcomed the immediate appeal of the conviction and sentence handed down by Judge Chris Holmes against pro-life leader Bernadette Smyth which they have described as a 'miscarriage of justice'.
Ms Smyth, the most prominent pro-life leader in the north of Ireland, was ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service, pay £2000 compensation to abortion referral clinic manager Dawn Purvis, and was ordered not to go within 20 yards of the Marie Stopes clinic for the next five years. Her solicitor has confirmed that the sentence and conviction will be both be appealed and that a hearing is set for January 16th, 2015.
The pro-life leader had previously been threatened with jail when she was convicted last month, but at today's hearing Judge Holmes acknowledged that Ms Smyth was a person of "impeccable character" who had "worked very hard with the community over a long time".
Many pro-lifers were in the courtroom yesterday morning to show their support for the long time pro-life campaigner.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that the harassment complaint, brought by Dawn Purvis of Marie Stopes, "should have been thrown out of court from the beginning" and described Ms Smyth's conviction as a "miscarriage of justice".
"There was no evidence of harassment presented against Bernadette Smyth during this trial. In fact, the evidence showed that Ms Smyth never approached Dawn Purvis and her conduct outside Marie Stopes was, as her solicitor pointed out, always 'orderly, routine, peaceful, non-intrusive, non-obstructive, dignified and respectful of others'. "
"It is ridiculous to argue that Dawn Purvis was intimidated by pro-life people praying and counselling peacefully outside her clinic. We will stand 100% with Bernadette as she seeks to have this unfair and unjust charge and sentence overturned," said Ms Uí Bhriain.
Claire Molloy of Youth Defence said that the sentence sought to silence and punish Ms Smyth precisely because she was such an effective advocate for mothers and babies. "This politically-motivated case will not succeed in silencing Bernadette and the pro life movement stands with her at this time and in overturning this unjust ruling " she said.
"The police service in the north have repeatedly praised Bernadette for her organisation of public events which had never lead to public disorder.
"Bernadette was sentenced by a judge who believes offering help to women outside Marie Stopes is 'harassment' and that, in effect, a pro-life outreach 'directly harasses' the clinic owner. This was a bizarre judgement. We stand with Bernadette Smyth and believe her appeal will be successful."
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