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Belfast Health Trust admits to inflating protest incident figures in evidence session on abortion censorship zones

The Belfast Health Trust has apologised to MLAs in Northern Ireland after admitting to deceiving them by inflating the number of incidents during pro-life demonstrations outside abortion clinics from 11 to 41 over six months.

The misleading figures were provided by the Belfast Health Trust during an evidence session in December 2021 as the Members of the Legislative Assembly were considering creating censorship zones to ban offers of help and alternatives to abortion. The legislation was voted through last month to make it a criminal offence to offer information about alternatives to abortion or to pray outside of abortion facilities.

Claire Bailey, Green Party leader and architect of the censorship zones law, alleged incidents of harassment and intimidation outside abortion clinics and hospitals during the debate. Now, however, it has been revealed that many of the alleged incidents did not happen within the time frame given at all.

The Belfast Health Trust confirmed to the Belfast News Letter that, between the two Assembly Evidence Sessions as the law was considered, it added more incidents to its database to inflate the figures from May to October – some of them retrospectively added 8 months after they were alleged to have happened.

The Trust also admitted that only 4 out of the 41 alleged ‘incidents’ were considered worthy of reporting to police. To date, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has not revealed the outcome of the four complaints made by the Belfast Health Trust.

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill could be used to fine people up to £2,500 for offering support to women outside abortion clinics in Northern Ireland.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “This blatant untruth created an utterly false impression of the extent of the alleged problem of harassment and intimidation outside abortion clinics in Northern Ireland. In fact, it could be argued that the problem was almost entirely manufactured by the Belfast Health Trust. Those individuals responsible for deceiving the Assembly should be investigated and appropriately reprimanded”.

“Insofar as the new law was largely based on a proven lie, groups in Northern Ireland are right to demand that the law be scrapped. If its proponents still wish to implement it, they must provide genuine evidence of the alleged problem”.

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