London Council Will Pay Damages for Evicting Pro-Life Charity

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REUTERS/Neil Hall
DR. SUSAN BERRY

Lambeth Borough Council has agreed to apologize and pay £5,000 in damages to pro-life organization Life after it evicted the charity’s staff and volunteers from a country show last summer.

“Lambeth’s agreement to settle this matter through a payment of damages is a victory for common sense and freedom of expression,” said Liz Parsons, Life’s head of advocacy, in a press statement. “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.”

The pro-life charity announced in August its legal action against Lambeth Council for “defamation, breach of contract and interference with our right to freedom of expression,” after its stall at the Lambeth show was shut down without advance notice.

Lambeth councilor Ed Davie alleged Life’s stall “wasn’t officially allowed,” and had been arranged “using inaccurate information,” reports the Catholic Herald. The council tweeted the same claim.

“These false claims by Lambeth, which were repeated in the London and national press, could have caused serious harm to Life’s reputation and undermined the charity’s wide-ranging work,” the charity said in its press statement.

Life disputed the allegations and produced evidence that showed it had been on an official list of approved exhibitors and that the information it provided was accurate. In addition, Life said the decision by the country show’s officials to take down its stall was a violation of the contract the charity signed in April.

In October, Lambeth Council apologized, tweeting in October: “On 22 July 2018, we tweeted that Life booked a stall at our County Show using inaccurate information. We accept that was incorrect and would like to apologise to Life.”

According to Third Sector, Stephen Sharpe, chief executive of Life, said in an open statement read by lawyers at the Royal Courts of Justice Tuesday that the sum of £5,000 was “relatively low” and the apology was “extremely narrow”.

Nevertheless, he added, “It would have been disproportionate to proceed to litigate in such circumstances and we were mindful of the potential costs.”

In a statement, the council said:

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.

“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 going nowhere,” added Parsons. “We must, and will challenge any organisation which tries in any way to impede this important work.”

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