The Home Office is aware of a number of recent protests outside some abortion clinics which we take extremely seriously. This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to
harassment or threatening behaviour. The law currently provides protection against such acts.
The police have a range of powers to deal with protests outside clinics. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, makes it an offence to display threatening, or abusive words or images that, within the sight of someone, is
likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place conditions on the location, duration or numbers attending a public assembly. This can be applied where the police
believe that the assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, or that the purpose by the assembly organisers is to intimidate others to compel them not
to do an act that they have a right to do.
The police have dispersal powers (in public places) under sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or
to prevent local crime or disorder.
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 includes criminal offences that protect individuals, who are conducting lawful activities, from harassment by protestors.
The policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police.