Northern Ireland

Abortion: Precious Life calls for appeal in case of woman who took drugs to end pregnancy

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Media captionThe woman was given a three-month prison sentence, which was suspended for 12 months

An anti-abortion group has said it has called for the case of a woman given a suspended prison sentence after buying drugs online to terminate pregnancy to be brought to the appeals court.

Precious Life described the sentence as "very lenient".

On Monday, Belfast Crown Court heard the 21-year old woman could not afford to travel to England for a termination.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International said it was "appalled" by the conviction.

Unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

The court heard on Monday that the woman, who cannot be named, was 10 to 12 weeks pregnant when she obtained the tablets in July 2014.

Two of her housemates reported her to police after they found blood-stained items and a male foetus in the bin of the house they shared in south Belfast.

She was was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, on Monday after admitting two offences - procuring her own abortion by using a poison, and of supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.

'Dangerous'

Bernadette Smyth from Precious Life said she was "very concerned about the judgement" and was "very hopeful that this case will be reviewed".

"We are in a crisis situation here, it's a human crisis and we, Precious Life have sent to the PPS for NI (Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland) our concerns calling for this case to be brought back to the appeals court," she said.

"It's sending out a dangerous message and could set a dangerous precedent for future cases of illegal abortions here in Northern Ireland."

Precious Life has no right to appeal the sentence. Only the director of public prosecutions can ask the Court of Appeal to review whether the sentence was unduly lenient.

'Tragic case'

The human rights organisation Amnesty International said: "A woman who needs an abortion is not a criminal - the law should not treat her as such," Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director, said.

"This tragic case reveals that making abortion illegal does not stop women in Northern Ireland needing or seeking terminations.

"Those who can afford it travel to England for the treatment they need. Over 1,000 women make that journey from Northern Ireland every year."

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said the pursuance of the case had been in the public interest.

"The test for prosecution has two elements," a PPS spokesman said.

"It involves an assessment as to whether the available evidence provides a reasonable prospect of conviction, and also whether prosecution is in the public interest.

"In this particular case it was decided, having carefully considered all of the relevant evidence and information, that both elements were met.

"A range of factors were relevant to the balancing of the public interest, including the important fact that the law in Northern Ireland makes the conduct in question a serious criminal offence, in respect of which a conviction carries the potential of a significant custodial sentence."

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