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  • Lord Moylan

Written Question: Abortion Clinic "Buffer Zones"

Lord Moylan: To ask His Majesty's Government what plans they have to ensure guidance developed by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council on buffer zones will protect the internationally recognised human rights of freedom of (1) conscience, (2) speech, (3) religion, and (4) assembly.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom): Ahead of the commencement of section 9 of the Public Order Act 2023, the College of Policing and the Crown Prosecution Service are updating relevant public order guidance and training to reflect the inclusion of the offence of interference with access to or provision of abortion services.

In accordance with human rights obligations, the College of Policing and the Crown Prosecution Service are required to consider the rights provided under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), including the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which is an absolute right under Article 9 of the ECHR, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and directly linked to freedom of opinion in Article 10 of the ECHR. As an absolute right, there can be no legitimate justification on the part of the public authority to limit, interfere or otherwise penalise persons for their exercise of the right to freedom of thought. However, freedom to manifest religion or belief is qualified. It shall be subject only to such limitation as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interest of public safety, for the protection of the public order, health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Public bodies must also consider Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the ECHR, recognising these are qualified rights, which can sometimes be infringed upon to uphold other rights.

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