Pensioner gets suspended jail term for breaching asbo

PUBLISHED: 07:30 11 September 2012

Edward Atkinson. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Edward Atkinson. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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An 81-year-old pro-life campaigner has been given a three-month suspended jail term after he sent graphic material about abortion to the new chief executive of King's Lynn Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Edward Atkinson, of Ely Road, Hilgay, is banned from sending abortion-related material to any person, hospital, doctor, medical practice or public authority under an anti-social behaviour order imposed in 2006.

But Norwich Crown Court heard that he sent a letter and abortion images to the hospital which was opened by a young female member of staff who was said to be “distressed” at seeing the material.

Kevin Eastwick prosecuting, said this was Atkinson’s third breach of the Asbo. After the last breach which had attracted publicity the hospital had received 4000 letters from the USA which had featured a similar type of anti-abortion material.

Atkinson, who is well-known for his anti-abortion campaigning, admitted the breach and was given a three-month jail term suspended for 18 months. His asbo was extended until March 2017 and he was given a three-month curfew.

Judge Nicholas Coleman accepted Atkinson had a been a life-long campaigner against abortion but said he had to comply with the order however much he disagreed with it. He warned him that if he breached it, he would be jailed.

“If you commit an offence in the future this sentence will take effect,” he said.

Julianna Tolan, for Atkinson, said that Atkinson now realised there were other ways he put his views across: “There are legal ways he can protest which would ensure he would not come before the courts again.”

She said that he had wanted to make contact with the new chief executive as he had also felt aggrieved that a ban meant he could not get his hip replacement carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital but had to go elswhere.

She said the envelope containing the images had carried a warning not to be opened by anyone who might be offended by the material.

“It was not his intention to cause alarm. The envelope was clearly marked.”

After the case Atkinson said the sentence would not deter him from his campaign against abortion: “I am not going to stop until the scourge of abortion has been lifted from our law.”

He was supported in court by a number of followers including Victoria Gillick, well-known for campaign against under-age sex, who said that she was supporting Atkinson because she believed no law was above criticism.

Mrs Gillick, of Fenland Life Supporter Group, said that she felt it was a suppression of freedom of speech and added: “It felt like a sick joke to see someone like Ted at his age and infirmity threatened with jail.”

Speaking after Atkinson was sentenced, a spokesman for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital said: “This mail was opened by members of our administration staff who found it very disturbing and upsetting.

“Following an earlier case some years ago we were inundated with extremist mail from around the world. All this had to be processed and responses provided, which used valuable public time and money. The more extreme letters were referred to the police and appropriate action was taken.

“No one deserves to be on the receiving end of hate mail and we will always take any steps necessary to enforce the NHS policy of zero tolerance in cases where the safety and wellbeing of our staff is under threat.”

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