ACT News


Pro-life supporter taken into custody, others fined outside abortion clinic

Police fined three pro-life supporters and "temporarily" took another into custody on Friday for praying in the protest exclusion zone at Canberra's abortion clinic.

The zone was introduced around the Moore Street clinic in March 2016. But a group that had held vigils at the Civic clinic every Friday for 18 years have continued to pray there in defiance of the zone.

They no longer hold group vigils since the zone was introduced, and say they instead remain quiet, don't use placards, and pray as individuals rather than in a group.

They say the silent prayers do not amount to protest.

Kerry Mellor, 75, was one of the three men, two aged 75 and one 78, to be fined on Friday. It was Mr Mellor's third fine, and he has refused to pay each.

Mr Mellor said he saw police on Friday approach a younger man, who was reading a small book and standing on the corner of Alinga Street and Moore Street outside the clinic.


He said the man would not engage with the officers, and would not answer their questions. He was then led away by police, Mr Mellor said.

He said their group did not know the man.

ACT Policing said in a statement that officers "temporarily" took the man into custody to confirm his identity. Once confirmed, he was released and given a caution in relation to protesting in a protected area, police said.

Police confirmed they have issued five Criminal Infringement Notices since the exclusion zone was established - the three on Friday morning and two others to Mr Mellor.

Mr Mellor has now received three fines of $750 each.

One, received on April 19, 2016, had been withdrawn after Mr Mellor contested it, and police accepted he had not been inside the exclusion zone.

The government subsequently widened the zone. But Mr Mellor was fined again on May 27 and again on Friday. He said he had written to police contesting the second fine but had heard nothing back.

Mr Mellor says his act - silently praying alone - is not a protest, nor prohibited behaviour under the exclusion zone regulation.

The buffer zone surrounding the 1 Moore Street clinic was introduced in March 2016, designed to prevent its patients from being harassed and intimidated.

It's a measure that has been introduced only in the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania. It's controversial because of how it infringes on freedom of speech and religion.

However, the ACT government said the exclusion zone strikes a balance between the rights of protesters and the rights of a woman to seek access to health care unhindered.

Mr Mellor said he would continue to pray outside the clinic, even after he was threatened with arrest on Friday.

"I got the clearest of warnings that if I was there next week they would take that as evidence I was a repeat offender, and I would be arrested," he said.

Police declined to say whether they were cracking down on protesters in the zone.

"Members of ACT Policing regularly patrol the Canberra city area for criminal activity and as a deterrence to would-be offenders. The issuing of Criminal Infringement Notices as required is a routine part of police patrolling."