A London council has admitted it does not have enough evid­ence to justify banning prayer vigils outside an abortion clinic.

Southwark Council had voted unanimously in November to look into creating a “buffer zone” around the Blackfriars Medical Practice in Colombo Street, which cont­ains an abortion clinic run by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

But Councillor Barrie Hargrove, the cabinet member for communities, safety and leisure, said last week: “At the mom­ent we don’t have the extent of evidence to bring in a Public Space Protection Order.”

He explained that the most recent report of pro-life activity outside the clinic was from January 2017. Despite this, he added: “Something really does need to be done about it” and claimed he had seen videos of “unpleasant and unacceptable harassment of vulnerable people” outside the clinic.

According to the SE1 website, council leader Peter John suggested that wardens could monitor the situation outside the clinic. Meanwhile, Manchester City Council has become the fifth local authority in England to seek to ban vigils outside clinics. Councillors last week voted 95 to 1 in support of a motion to “explore every possible option” and “take all necessary actions within [the council’s] powers” to stop women being “intimidated and harassed”. Antonia Tully, campaigns director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc), said the discussions were based on a “myth” about what happens at vigils. “The allegations are simply not true,” she said.

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