Libel damages paid to UK pro-life charity

London, England, Feb 21, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A British pro-life charity has been awarded thousands of pounds in a court case after a local government council made libellous statements about the group last year.

 

Lambeth Council in south London paid £5,000 to Life, a non-sectarian pro-life organization, after the UK’s High Court ruled that statements from the council were libellous and damaging.

 

News of the payment was released in a statement read in the High Court Feb. 19, with lawyers representing Life relating the distress the council’s actions had caused to staff and volunteers.

 

The libel case centered on events at the Lambeth Country Show held in July last year, when organizers at the event disassembled the stall operated by Life and evicted staff and volunteers from the grounds.

 

The eviction followed a series of tweets by Lambeth Council member Ed Davie in response to several twitter users who objected to the pro-life organization being permitted to have a stall at the show.

 

Davie said in July that Life “wasn’t officially allowed” to exhibit at the show, were “not on the approved list of exhibitors,” and that he would “make sure” they were not permitted to remain at the grounds during the festival.

 

The annual event was held in Brockwell Park, south London, and was attended by approximately 150,000 people over the course of the weekend of July 21, 2018.

 

Davie went on to claim that Life had used “inaccurate information” in their application to exhibit at the show. Lambeth Council’s official Twitter account repeated that allegation later that day.

 

The claims against Life were repeated in the national press in subsequent days.

 

Life offers information and support to women in crisis pregnancies and provides accommodation for homeless pregnant women.

 

The organization said they explicitly described themselves as “a pro-life charity” in their application. Their submission to Lambeth Council included pictures of similar stalls they had run at past events. Their application was submitted in January 2018, and approved by the council in April.

 

Anne Scanlan, Life’s Director of Education, told CNA in July that “nothing on our stall was offensive.”

 

“There were lifelike fetal models and pictures of the unborn baby at different gestational stages which can be seen on any pregnancy website, including the National Health Service,” Scanlan said.

 

On Tuesday, Liz Parsons, Head of Advocacy for Life, called the damages “a victory for common sense and freedom of expression.”

 

“In a climate where the prolife voice is being shut down by local authorities across the country, we want to be clear that we are not going anywhere. For almost five decades we have stood firm in our provision of support for women and advocacy for the life of the unborn,” she said in a statement released by Life.

 

“The stall at Lambeth sought to educate people about the unborn baby and advertise our care services for pregnant women, including those who are homeless or in need of emotional and practical support. We must, and will challenge any organisation which tries in any way to impede this important work.”

 

Lambeth Council released a statement on the announcement of the settlement this week.

 

“Lambeth Council and Life reached a settlement on October 12, 2018 in relation to threatened claims arising from the removal of Life’s stall from the 2018 Lambeth Country Show. Lambeth agreed to pay Life £5,000 in damages, publish an apology on Twitter and has undertaken not to publish, or cause to be published, the same or similar words to those originally tweeted by the Council on July 22, 2018.”

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