Mother cleared in online abortion pills case after NI law reform

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By David Young

A woman from Northern Ireland who was prosecuted for buying abortion pills online for her teenage daughter has been formally acquitted after landmark reform of the region's laws.

A judge directed a jury at Belfast Crown Court to find the mother not guilty.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been facing two counts of procuring and supplying the abortion drugs with the intent to procure a miscarriage, contrary to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

That 19th century legislation fell away at midnight on Monday when abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland.

The prosecution offered no evidence on Wednesday morning.

Judge David McFarland said that, despite the law being repealed, he was required to go through the legal formalities and swear in a jury.

Once the eight men and four women were sworn in, a prosecution lawyer confirmed to the court that the Crown would be offering no evidence.

The judge then directed the jury to find the woman not guilty.

The mother had been excused from attending the short hearing.

After the verdict, she expressed her relief.

"My emotions are all over the place and I find it hard to put into words how I am feeling," she said in a statement.

"For the first time in six years I can go back to being the mother I was, without the weight of this hanging over me every minute of every day, and I can finally move on with my life.

"I am so thankful that the change in the law will allow other women and girls to deal with matters like this privately in their own family circle."

Her solicitor, Jemma Conlon, of Chambers Solicitors, said: "Today is a day of immense relief for my client, who now finds herself free from the burden of this prosecution that has been in her life for six years.

"It is a day that she will forever remember and a day that allows her to finally move on with her life privately without anguish and criminalisation."

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