Pro-life campaigner guilty of hitting sexual health worker with clipboard
An anti-abortion campaigner has been convicted of assaulting an employee of a sexual health charity as she left an unplanned pregnancy clinic in Belfast.
Moira Brennan, a member of the pro-life campaign group Precious Life, was protesting outside the Family Planning Association (FPA) building when she attacked the woman.
The 46-year-old, from Lisheegan Road in Ballymoney, was fined £400 and ordered to pay her victim £400 in compensation following her conviction for common assault in Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday.
Brennan was protesting outside the FPA building in May last year when she approached her victim and attempted to put graphic anti-abortion leaflets into her handbag. She then hit the woman with a clipboard.
The FPA last night said it welcomed Brennan's conviction.
Mark Breslin, FPA's Northern Ireland director, said that the right to protest is a human right but added that the manner of the protests they see outside their building is unacceptable.
"This offender did not realise that this member of staff worked for FPA and she pursued her down the street, trying to force leaflets into her handbag, and in the end hit her with a clipboard she was carrying. She was left shaken and upset by the assault," said Mr Breslin.
He added: "We share our office building with three other businesses and protesters outside have no idea which office women coming into and out of the building are visiting, or what the purpose of their visit is.
"There is a fundamental difference between the right to peaceful protest - which we respect and defend - and what these people do, which is to block entrances, question women why they are coming into a building, try and force leaflets with offensive imagery and language on to them, and intimidate staff."
Mr Breslin said Brennan's conviction "sends a very clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated".
Brennan was granted bail to appeal her conviction.
Pro-life campaigners stage regular protests and hand out leaflets outside the FPA building and Marie Stopes private abortion clinic.
Last week Precious Life chief Bernadette Smyth won her appeal against being convicted of harassing a former Marie Stopes clinic director.
The case against Ms Smyth was thrown out after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence that she pursued a campaign against Dawn Purvis.