Gillick loses libel case against Brook clinics

LEXIE GODDARD

Veteran anti-abortion campaigner Victoria Gillick lost her libel action against Brook, the family-planning charity, last week.

Gillick had claimed that a factsheet, published by Brook, was defamatory.

She argued that it accused her of being "morally responsible

for a 23 per cent rise in teenage pregnancies in the 1980s, because she had campaigned to stop girls under 16 getting contraceptives without their parent's consent.

Lawyers for Brook argued that the words she complained about did not convey this meaning and that the leaflet, which was published in 1996, was not defamatory.

After Mr Justice Gray found in their favour last Wednesday (13 March), Brook's chief executive Jan Barlow called the action "a complete waste of time

for the charity, the UK's biggest provider of free sexual-health advice and contraception to under 25s.

The anti-abortion group Life, for which Gillick is a volunteer, said she had fought a "David and Goliath

style battle.

Life, which is primarily funded from public donations, did not finance Gillick's legal action, but Rachel Heath, assistant director of education at Life, said: "We support her wholeheartedly and are very sad for her that she lost. She was fighting a brave battle against a huge organisation that receives thousands of pounds of Government funding each year."

Gillick is prevented from appealing and now owes Brook £4,289 for costs, plus £5,700 for previous proceedings.

The mother of 10, who works at one of Life's pregnancy advisory centres above its charity shop in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, funded the case herself.

She said: "I can't pay the money back. I did it through my income support and it's cost our family dearly. Just the photocopying is enough to cripple you.

She added: "It's difficult when a charity chooses to hire an expensive London law firm and you are representing yourself."

The family-planning clinic said in a statement: "These proceedings have been an unnecessary distraction for us and what we're here to do, which is help teenage girls, and we are delighted it's over. Brook never accepted that the comment in the factsheet was false, nor did we accept that it was defamatory."

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