Abortion complaint rejected

Anti-abortion campaigner Bernie Smyth
Anti-abortion campaigner Bernie Smyth

The Public Prosecution Service has rejected representations from a pro-life group that a sentence given to a woman for inducing her own abortion was unduly lenient.

Earlier this month in Belfast, the 21-year-old woman was given a three-month sentence suspended for one year for procuring her own abortion using a poison.

Pro-life campaigner Bernie Smyth of Precious Life complained to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that the sentence had been unduly lenient. However a PPS spokeswoman now says the Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC carefully considered the case papers, relevant authorities and sentencing transcript and decided not to refer the case as an unduly lenient sentence to the Court of Appeal.

“An unduly lenient sentence is one that falls outside the range of sentence that a judge, taking into consideration all relevant factors and having regard to sentencing guidance, could reasonably consider appropriate,” she added.

Ms Smyth told the News Letter that she accepted the outcome.

“Speaking out against the leniency of the sentence and asking for the case to be reviewed was not about wanting to punish the young woman, but to honour the law and to ensure the protection of every human life,” she said. “The judge said there were no guidelines or similar cases.”

However one man has been convicted in Northern Ireland and there had been 75 prosecutions in Great Britain since 2002; in one of the those cases a woman was given eight years for using the same pills. It is also illegal for a woman to procure her own abortion using the same pills in Great Britain, she noted.

But Goretti Horgan of Alliance for Choice welcomed the PPS decision.

“The young woman has already been punished dreadfully, having had the charges and a threat of life imprisonment hanging over her for the last two years,” she said. “Alliance for Choice believes she should not have been prosecuted at all since it is impossible to see what the public interest was in the prosecution. Rather, she seems to have been punished for being too poor to travel to England for a legal abortion.”