Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland abortion pills raid woman Helen Crickard won't be charged

 

By Lisa Smyth

A woman whose workplace was searched by police looking for abortion pills bought online has said she has been told she faces no further action.

Pro-choice campaigner Helen Crickard said police had contacted her and told her their probe into the possession of abortion medication had been dropped.

It comes as it emerged the PSNI is developing an official policy on the handling of investigations when women buy, possess or take the tablets.

An email from senior detectives stated they were currently gathering information on all such cases as a result of "much public interest in relation to this sensitive topic".

They have asked officers to provide details of when they have carried out searches, any medication found, made any arrests, held interviews, whether the matter was passed to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and any subsequent decision on whether to prosecute.

The email was sent just a few weeks after the PSNI came under fire for carrying out the search of Ms Crickard's office on March 8, which was International Women's Day.

As celebrations and rallies to mark the day were taking place across Northern Ireland, officers arrived at Ms Crickard's workshop in south Belfast.

They had a search warrant that stated they intended to seize her laptop, mobile phone and bank documents.

Officers were also looking for drugs or instruments which cause abortion.

Ms Crickard said: "I have had a phone call from the PSNI to say they are not taking any further action against me.

"The officer said she had been told from higher up the command chain not to pursue this case."

A PSNI spokeswoman said it did not comment on named individuals.

However, Ms Crickard said the email sent by senior officers after the search of her office highlighted the fact that buying or possessing certain drugs was not an offence.

Providing clarification to officers regarding the law relating to drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, the email states they have legitimate uses.

It continues: "They are prescription only medicines (POM) which, if taken together, have the potential to induce an abortion. Possession or purchase is not an offence. Taking or supplying such medication with the intention of procuring or inducing an abortion may constitute an offence contrary to OAP Act 1861. The supply of any POM may constitute an offence."

However, it stresses: "There is no such offence of possession or attempted possession (of abortifacient medication) with intent to procure an abortion." It also states that while the PSNI has a statutory obligation to investigate alleged criminal acts, it does not intend to routinely investigate "the interception of such medication unless evidence of an offence exists or is suspected".

Ms Crickard added: "I am angry at the way the search of my office was carried out because I work in a shared space and it didn't leave me in a very good position with regards to the people I work with.

"Obviously I am relieved that I am not facing any charges, but I do feel like there has been defamation of my character. To be honest, it isn't really the fault of the police, they are just doing their job and they should be allowed to do that.

"This is the fault of our politicians who have completely failed to protect women in Northern Ireland by denying them the right to the same healthcare women in the rest of the UK can access.

"These abortion pills are named by the World Health Organisation as safe medication. At the moment we have a situation in Northern Ireland where women cannot even get an abortion if they are carrying a baby with a fatal foetal abnormality.

"They have to travel to the mainland and bring their foetus back in a plastic bag. It's barbaric."

A termination is only allowed to be carried out in Northern Ireland where a woman's life or long-term health is at serious risk if the pregnancy continues.

The issue of local women buying mifepristone and misoprostol on the internet has hit the headlines in the past 12 months. A number have appeared in court here accused of taking the drugs to induce abortion.

Earlier this year an unnamed man and woman accused of attempting to get an abortion in Belfast accepted formal cautions. In January a mum who helped her 15-year-old daughter buy abortion pills online won the right to contest the decision to prosecute her.

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