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Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Act (Northern Ireland) 2023

Section 5 – Offences in respect of a safe access zone

This is a key section which criminalises certain behaviour in the safe access zone.  This is designed to protect women and staff from being harassed whilst they are visiting an abortion clinic.

There is a broad and a specific offence.  The broad offence makes it a crime to do anything in a safe access zone that might influence a person in their decision to attend an abortion clinic, or which might prevent or impede access to the clinic, or which might harass, alarm or distress that person.  For example, a protest group handing out leaflets to visitors to the clinic in the safe access zone, or individual protestors haranguing visitors to the clinic, or blocking the entrance point to a clinic.

The specific offence is recording a person who is in the safe access zone if that might also have the effect of influencing their decision to attend, preventing or impeding access, or that might harass, alarm or distress them.

The punishment is a level 2 fine.  The punishment does not include a jail term.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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