WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 13 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Jailing women for illegal abortions ‘unlikely to provide a just outcome’

Jailing women for illegal abortions ‘unlikely to provide a just outcome’

Senior judges have said jailing women who have illegal abortions is ‘unlikely to provide a just outcome’, referring to two recent cases where women’s sentences have been reduced on appeal.

In the case of Carla Foster, jailed for terminating her own pregnancy beyond the legal time limit, the Court of Appeal found her original 28 month sentence was wrongly calculated. It was reduced to a 14 month suspended sentence in July, after she had already served over a month in prison and been denied access to her children.
In the 17-page ruling the judges noted the case of another woman who had her sentence for procuring a miscarriage reduced, saying: ‘in cases of this nature, there will often be substantial personal mitigation to balance against the seriousness of the charge; and that an immediate custodial sentence in such cases is unlikely to provide a just outcome’.
Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde and Mrs Justice Lambert, said Foster’s case ‘calls for compassion, not punishment’. They added that ‘no useful purpose is served’ by her serving a custodial sentence.
The Court of Appeal found the original sentencing judge, Mr Justice Pepperall,  had wrongly calculated the sentence before factoring in mitigation. This was why it was later found to be too punitive.
Foster’s case caused widespread public outcry, with many expressing concern that a mother could receive such a long prison sentence for breaching Victorian-era legislation. Labour MP Stella Creasy called for ‘urgent reform’ of the law in the aftermath of the case, and Dame Diana Johnson said the law as it currently stands was having a ‘chilling effect’ on healthcare staff.