As a result of her persistent attempts to bully Purvis out of carrying out her very valuable work a judge this week directed that she carry out 100 hours community service. Earlier he had convicted her of harassing the Marie Stopes worker. What Smyth and Purvis now have in common is that both perform a service to the community, Purvis because she wants to, Smyth because she is compelled to do so by court order. Smyth was also ordered to stay at least twenty yards away from the front door of the clinic for the next five years and to pay Purvis 2000 pound. She must also refrain from pestering Purvis over the same period.
The spectre of religion with its associated intolerance was also hovering around the case: in the hallway of the court around twenty supporters gathered to pray. They might as well have sacrificed a goat for all the difference it made to the outcome. Gawd had ear plugs in that day. The religious undertones were reinforced by Smyth's solicitor who described the court verdict as 'a disappointment for Christians worldwide.
From the judge’s comments it seems that Smyth was behaving like some type of morality peeler:
stopping people, questioning them about why they were going into the premises. I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not feel it's appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion and questioned either to their identity, why they are going in there and being forced to involve themselves in conversation at times when they are almost certainly going to be stressed and very possibly distressed.
Commenting on how she mounted her legal defence the judge said it was in a 'no holds barred, vicious and malicious fashion' in which there was 'a concerted attack on anyone seen as getting in the way of Mrs Smyth.’ Standard fare for the bully and bigot.
Although Smyth’s barrister objected vehemently in court to a probation report that suggested there was a high probability that she would reoffend, within days of her conviction she was cautioned for being in breach of the court order – she was back at the Marie Stopes clinic harassing women who don’t agree with her.
Some have taken to defending Smyth’s actions on the grounds of free expression. This is a misnomer. There is no more free speech involved in this than there was when a mob of thugs gathered to protest against the children of Holy Cross School. Dawn Purvis best summed up the freedom of expression perspective:
I fully respect people's right to peaceful protest, but it is totally unacceptable to intimidate women accessing a legal health service or the staff that provide their care ... I have both witnessed and been subjected to a culture of daily harassment, and seen these protesters' tactics become increasingly aggressive.
Do not confuse freedom of expression with freedom of repression.