U.K. local government apologizes to pro-life charity

Lambeth Fair 2 Life stall at Lambeth Country Show | LifeCharity

A London borough has apologized to a U.K. pro-life charity after making inaccurate claims about the group. Life, a non-sectarian charity which provides assistance to women and children, was ejected from the Lambeth Country Show in July.

In a tweet posted Oct. 12 on the official account of Lambeth Council, the local government recognized that its previous claim that Life had booked a place at the show using "inaccurate information" – thereby justifying the removal of their stall – was untrue.

"On 22 July 2018, [Lambeth Council] 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," the tweet read.

The annual event was held in Brockwell Park, south London, and was attended by approximately 150,000 people over the course of the weekend of July 21-22. Having exhibited during the day Saturday, Life staff and volunteers arrived Sunday morning to find their stall had been disassembled and their property removed from the show's grounds.

At the time of the event, Life said that they had been given no warning or justification for the removal.

"They would not give us an exact reason for the action but did say that Life was against the values of Lambeth Council and was not in line with the causes the council has been funding and supporting. However they were then unable to tell us what those values were," a statement from the charity said.

Over the course of that weekend, Lambeth councilor Ed Davie alleged in a tweet that Life "wasn't officially allowed" to be at the event, was "not on the approved list of exhibitors," and that he would "make sure" they were not permitted to remain through Sunday.

In a subsequent tweet, Davie further alleged that Life had used "inaccurate information" in their application to exhibit at the show. Lambeth Council's official Twitter account repeated that allegation later that day. Life demanded an apology and announced they were taking legal action against the council.

Life, which offers information and support to women in crisis pregnancies, and also provides accommodation for homeless pregnant women, said they had explicitly described themselves as "a pro-life charity" in their application for the event.

Their submission to Lambeth Council included pictures of similar stalls they had run at past events.

Speaking at the time, Life's director of education Ann Scanlan said that "nothing on our stall was offensive. There were lifelike fetal models and pictures of the unborn baby at different gestational stages which can be seen on any pregnancy website, including the National Health Service."

The eviction came at a time when pro-life speech was under sustained pressure from local government action. Several authorities, including the London borough of Ealing, moved to ban pro-life vigils near abortion clinics. The Ealing ban was upheld against an appeal to the High Court.

In September, U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that he would not be instituting a national ban on demonstrations near abortion facilities. Javid said that, although the proposal had support across different political parties, it would not be "proportional response."

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