The Public Order Act 2023 was granted Royal Assent on 2 May 2023 and some parts will become effective on 3 May 2023. Following a lengthy period of “ping-pong”, conflicts between the two Houses were ultimately resolved on 26 April 2023 when the House of Lords voted not to insist on amendments the House of Commons disagreed with. On 28 April the Home Office updated its Factsheet on the Bill, which indicated those measures within the Act to commence on 3 May 2023, v infra.
Abortion clinic safe access zones
The Act – which applies to England and Wales only: see s.35 – introduces safe access zones around abortion clinics, where interference with any person’s decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services within the 150m zone is an offence. The police will have powers to enforce the safe access zones and an offence will carry an unlimited fine. s.9 Offence of interference with access to or provision of abortion services, states:
(1) It is an offence for a person who is within a safe access zone to do an act with the intent of, or reckless as to whether it has the effect of—(a)influencing any person’s decision to access, provide or facilitate the provision of abortion services at an abortion clinic, (b)obstructing or impeding any person accessing, providing, or facilitating the provision of abortion services at an abortion clinic, or (c)causing harassment, alarm or distress to any person in connection with a decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services at an abortion clinic,
where the person mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) is within the safe access zone for the abortion clinic.
(2) A “safe access zone” means an area which is within a boundary which is 150 metres from any part of an abortion clinic or any access point to any building or site that contains an abortion clinic and is—(a)on or adjacent to a public highway or public right of way, (b)in an open space to which the public has access, (c)within the curtilage of an abortion clinic, or building or site which contains an abortion clinic, or (d)in any location that is visible from a public highway, public right of way, open space to which the public have access, or the curtilage of an abortion clinic.
(3 No offence is committed under subsection (1) by—(a)a person inside a dwelling where the person affected is also in that or another dwelling, or (b)a person inside a building or site used as a place of worship where the person affected is also in that building or site.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine.
(5) Nothing in this section applies to—(a )anything done in the course of providing, or facilitating the provision of, abortion services in an abortion clinic, (b) anything done in the course of providing medical care within a regulated healthcare facility, (c)any person or persons accompanying, with consent, a person or persons accessing, providing or facilitating the provision of, or attempting to access, provide or facilitate the provision of, abortion services, or (d) the operation of a camera if its coverage of persons accessing or attempting to access an abortion clinic is incidental.
(6) In this section—
“abortion clinic” means—(a) a place approved for the purposes of section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) of that section, or (b) a hospital identified in a notification to the Chief Medical Officer under section 2(1) of the Abortion Act 1967 in the current or previous calendar year, and published identifying it as such, where “current” or “previous” are references to the time at which an alleged offence under subsection (1) of this section takes place;
“abortion services” means any treatment for the termination of pregnancy;
- “dwelling” has the same meaning as in section 1 of this Act (offence of locking on).
S35 Extent, commencement and short title comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed; sections 7 and 13 come into effect on the day on which the Act is passed, but only for the purposes of making regulations. Section 16 comes into force at the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed. Under The Public Order Act 2023 (Commencement No. 1) Regulations 2023 SI 2023/502, the following provisions of the Public Order Act 2023 come into force on the day after the day on which these Regulations are made—
- (a) section 1 (offence of locking on);
- (b) section 2 (offence of being equipped for locking on);
- (c) section 7 (interference with use or operation of key national infrastructure), to the extent not already in force;
- (d) section 8 (key national infrastructure);
- (e) section 15 (processions, assemblies and one-person protests: delegation of functions);
- (f) section 34 (meaning of serious disruption).
Updated 5 May 2023 at 13:35.