Pro-life campaigner Christian Hacking is today (22 March 2022) seeking permission for a judicial review of a judge’s decision to uphold him being banned from displaying educational images of living and aborted fetuses in a London borough. Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Christian, 31, an employee of the Centre for Bio-ethical Reform UK (CBR UK), will seek permission at the High Court (Administrative Court).
Banned for educational images
In October 2019, while leading a group of pro-life campaigners, Christian was issued with a Community Protection Notice (CPN) by Waltham Forest Council for showing images of fetuses in MP Stella Creasy’s constituency.
MP Stella Creasy is one of the most vocal activists in the House of Commons for liberalising abortion across the UK. She has been particularly active pushing liberalised laws on Northern Ireland. To achieve this, she has sought to overturn sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, which would all but remove the few remaining protections for unborn children.
Christian had written to Stella Creasy and asked to meet to discuss her policies, but had been repeatedly ignored. Left with no alternative but to challenge her policies and to raise awareness of them in her constituency, CBR UK launched a three-week campaign, called #StopStella.
Staff and local volunteers, who are trained to peacefully and respectfully engage members of the public on the subject of abortion, shared leaflets and held up public education displays featuring an image of an aborted baby at 24 weeks. The banner on display on Walthamstow High Street included a photo of Stella Creasy and an image of the tragic reality of an aborted fetus and read: ‘Your MP is working hard….to make this a human right.’ As well as the displays, a billboard advert, secured through one of the world’s biggest advertising agency, Clear Channel, went up in Walthamstow with a scientifically validated image of a 9-week living fetus.
Although the displays were deliberately shocking, they were put up with the aim of exposing the reality behind Stella Creasy’s proposed policies seeking to allow abortion on demand with none of the remaining protections of the 1967 Act. This would allow abortions up to 28 weeks. The images aimed to shock people into understanding what decriminalisation would really look like.
Local councillors acted unlawfully
However, in response to the campaign, Stella Creasy demanded the police and local council intervene. Within 24 hours, Stella Creasy, forced Clear Channel to take down the adverts. She then addressed parliament claiming she was the “victim of harassment” and demanded action from the Home Secretary and pushed the police to treat the campaigners as criminals.
The police initially refused to intervene, as they said no crime had been committed. However, allegedly misusing her public office to shut down opposition, on 3 October 2019, she informed her followers that action would be taken against campaigners by Waltham Forest Council. The same day, pro-life campaigners led by Christian set up their displays on Walthamstow High Street. Staff and volunteers were immediately intimidated by a couple of pro-abortion members of the public who blocked their displays and tried to prevent the banners being displayed.
Council officials, who later admitted in court to acting unlawfully and being out of their depth, the shut down and confiscated the displays and issued Christian with a CPN. Ms Creasy hailed their actions as ‘heroic’, rejoicing at the news and boasting on Instagram that as a result of CBR UK’s campaign she had raised £7,000 for an abortion charity that week.
Censorship of medically verified images
The CPN notice is believed to be the first borough-wide censorship on displaying the medically verified images of unborn and aborted babies. Breaching the notice is a criminal offence.
Waltham Forest Council claimed that the images were responsible for “unreasonable behaviour that was persistent in nature” and had “a detrimental effect on the quality of life of others.”
Appealing the issuing of the notice in May 2020, Magistrates Court District Judge Jonathan Radway ruled that the image of an abortion at 24 weeks was “sickening” and “horrific”, and although the ban had interfered with Christian’s rights to freedom of expression, this was justified because some members of the public found the images disturbing.
Lawyers will now seek permission for a judicial review of the decision of the magistrates court, on the grounds that the interference by council workers was “disproportionate,” that the court placed an “improper limit on what is ‘necessary’ political speech,” and that an “individual or individuals stating that they felt upset is not sufficient to justify the imposition of a community protection notice.”
‘The images are upsetting because abortion is upsetting’
Ahead of the hearing, Mr Hacking said: “Stella Creasy was responsible to introducing abortion into Northern Ireland up to 24 weeks and yet when we peacefully showed her constituents what her policies look like, the kitchen sink was thrown at me.
“The images displayed in Walthamstow in October 2019 were upsetting because late term abortion is upsetting, but it’s also what Stella Creasy’s policies permit.
“The fact of the matter is, images, including ones that some people may find upsetting, have been used repeatedly down the centuries to alert the public of human rights abuses. Walthamstow Council are ultimately not preventing detrimental effects, but enabling the human victims of Stella Creasy’s policies to be hidden away.
“The real victim in all of this debacle is not me, nor MP Stella Creasy, but unborn children. And this is why we must seek every avenue to get this sanction removed.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The previous ruling on this case hinged on the idea that this image, showing the tragic reality of abortion, causes significant and lasting emotional harm.
“But however uncomfortable the truth, we must be free to make these distressing realities known – or the vastly more horrific truth of abortion becomes immune to criticism.
“There is a high bar to restricting free speech. Freedom of speech must include, and has been ruled in law to include, that which is shocking, provocative and offensive. Political campaigns are often shocking and disturbing. Graphic images of cancers are used in government advertising to persuade people not to smoke, for example. Abortion is by its nature a graphic deed. It is a bloody destruction of a human life. This is what was being exposed.
“The argument that some people found this image disturbing does not amount to an argument that they should not be allowed for political speech.”
Find out more about Christian Hacking