PSNI Will Not Prosecute Over Possession of Illegal Abortion Pills
An abortion campaigner in Northern Ireland whose workplace was searched by police looking for illegal abortion pills says she has been told she faces no further action. Helen Crickard said police had contacted her and told her their probe into the possession of the abortion pills had been dropped.
It has also emerged that the PSNI is developing an official policy on the handling of investigations when women buy, possess or take the abortion drugs.
An email from senior detectives stated they were currently gathering information on all such cases as a result of “much public interest in relation to this sensitive topic”. They have asked officers to provide details of when they have carried out searches, any pills found, any arrests, interviews, and whether the matter was passed to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and any subsequent decision on whether to prosecute.
PSNI officers arrived at Crickard’s workshop in south Belfast on March 8. They had a search warrant that stated they intended to seize her laptop, mobile phone and bank documents. Officers were also looking for drugs or instruments which cause abortion. Crickard said she had later been contacted by the PSNI to say they are not taking any further action against her. “The officer said she had been told from higher up the command chain not to pursue this case.”
A PSNI spokeswoman said it did not comment on named individuals.
The email sent by senior PSNI officers after the search advised that simply buying or possessing abortion drugs was not, of itself, an offence. It states that the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol have legitimate uses. “They are prescription only medicines (POM) which, if taken together, have the potential to induce an abortion. Possession or purchase is not an offence. Taking or supplying such medication with the intention of procuring or inducing an abortion may constitute an offence contrary to [the Offences Against the Person] Act 1861. The supply of any POM may constitute an offence.”
However, the email stresses that “[t]here is no such offence of possession or attempted possession (of abortifacient medication) with intent to procure an abortion.” It also states that while the PSNI has a statutory obligation to investigate alleged criminal acts, it does not intend to routinely investigate “the interception of such medication unless evidence of an offence exists or is suspected”.
Earlier this year an unnamed man and woman accused of attempting to get an abortion in Belfast accepted formal cautions. In January a woman who helped her 15-year-old daughter buy abortion pills online won the right to contest the decision to prosecute her.
Belfast Telegraph. April 18.