Pair accept cautions over attempted abortion

NIs laws limit the circumstances in which an abortion can take place
NIs laws limit the circumstances in which an abortion can take place

A man and woman accused of attempting to get an abortion in Belfast have accepted formal cautions, a court has heard.

Prosecutors revealed charges were withdrawn against the pair after warnings were administered to them last week.

The development came as a judge imposed a ban on identifying the woman due to the heightened risk of suicide from any publicity.

Her co-accused is not being named either for legal reasons.

The woman, aged 21, was charged with using a poison to procure her own abortion.

The alleged offence involved administering noxious substances, namely the drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol.

Her 22-year-old co-defendant faced a count of supplying a poison with the intent to procure a miscarriage.

The charges, under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, relate to incidents in Belfast in 2015.

Terminations are currently only allowed in Northern Ireland if the woman’s life or long-term health is at serious risk.

Lawyers for the woman sought reporting restrictions to protect her anonymity based on the risk to her life.

They argued that a medical expert has concluded publicity would increase the threat of self-harm.

Counsel for the woman described her as vulnerable and immature, and also referred to three previous episodes of self-harm.

A consultant forensic psychiatrist who assessed her concluded that prosecution and surrounding media coverage would exacerbate the risk.

Ruling on the anonymity application today, District Judge Fiona Bagnall imposed a ban on identifying the woman to ensure her right to life is protected.

A prosecution lawyer also disclosed that the test for continuing with the case had been re-assessed following the expert medical evidence.

She said: “In light of all information now available a decision has been taken that the public interest can be met by diversionary disposal.

“Cautions were administered to both defendants on January 13. The matters before the court can now be withdrawn.”