Belfast Telegraph

Date set for challenge to mum's abortion trial

By Alan Erwin

A landmark legal bid to stop the prosecution of a mother for allegedly procuring her 15-year-old daughter's abortion will be heard in the autumn, Northern Ireland's most senior judge has directed.

Lawyers for the pair claim it is inhuman to subject the woman to a criminal trial in Belfast.

They also contend that the decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) breaches privacy rights in a case that involves an unwanted pregnancy from an allegedly abusive relationship.

In the High Court yesterday, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan confirmed two days in October will be set aside for all submissions in the case.

Reporting restrictions prevent the identities of both mother and daughter being published.

Their legal representatives are seeking to judicially review the PPS for pursuing a prosecution against the woman over procuring the abortion four years ago, back in 2013.

Terminations are currently only legal in Northern Ireland if the pregnant female's life or long-term health is at serious risk.

In 2015, a High Court judge held that the failure to provide exceptions to the near-blanket ban for cases of fatal foetal abnormalities (FFAs) and victims of rape or incest breaches human rights legislation.

The outcome of an appeal against that ruling is still awaited.

Lawyers for the mother and daughter believe their case is of major public interest, with important rights for women and children in Northern Ireland.

They want the court to find it was wrong to prosecute and potentially criminalise the mother for behaviour that would be lawful in other parts of the UK.

Earlier this year, they cleared the first stage in their challenge by establishing they had an arguable case.

Judges were told the woman was faced with a situation where she believed her teenage daughter could not cope with the pregnancy.

It was claimed that conception followed under-age sex and amounted to a form of "statutory rape".

Compelling the girl to continue with her pregnancy would have breached her right to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment under European law, the court heard at that stage.

Prosecuting her mother for enabling her to access medication to obtain an abortion also violated those entitlements and rights to privacy and family life, lawyers argued.

With only the mother facing trial over the alleged procurement, a barrister for the family insisted that the daughter's "voice" will not be heard in those proceedings.

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