Police investigate abortion of foetus with 'cleft palate'

The late abortion of a baby that was diagnosed in the womb with a cleft lip and palate is to be investigated again by police after the intervention of a female curate.

The Rev Joanna Jepson, who was born with a congenital jaw defect, is seeking a judicial review to challenge the refusal of police to bring charges against the doctors who performed the termination more than two years ago.

The abortion was carried out when the mother, known to be from Herefordshire, was more than 24 weeks pregnant - the legal limit for abortions unless there is a risk of serious disability. It is alleged the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had a termination because she did not want a child with a cleft lip and palate

Lawyers for Ms Jepson, 27, who does not know the mother, argued at the High Court in London last year that the procedure could not be justified under the 1967 Abortion Act on the basis that the condition was not a "serious handicap", as required under the law. West Mercia Constabulary had decided not to seek prosecution after reportedly taking advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

But yesterday a West Mercia Constabulary spokesman said that acting Detective Chief Superintendent Ray Groves had been appointed to head the new inquiry, which is expected to be completed by the summer. "Following a review of material submitted to a judicial review of the case and legal advice, the force has appointed a new team of officers to carry out further inquiries," the spokesman said.

In a statement, Mr Groves said: "I have been appointed to conduct an investigation into all matters relating to the termination of a pregnancy by doctors in December 2001. We will approach his investigation with an open mind and interview all people associated with this case.

"Our renewed investigation into this sensitive matter will be carried out with due regard to all the parties involved and in the interests of openness and public confidence in the criminal justice system."

Ms Jepson, the curate of St Michael's Church in Chester, described in December how she and her brother, who suffers from Down's syndrome, were living positive and fulfilling lives. Ms Jepson underwent surgery to correct the jaw deformity with which she was born. "The baby in this case did not have this opportunity, despite the availability of excellent and routine medical help," she said.

Ms Jepson began the challenge after learning about the case while undergoing ordination training at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, in 2002. The initial case was turned down at the High Court in London in September last year but the decision was overturned two months later.

She said she now intended to press ahead with the judicial review in order to clarify current abortion law. She said: "It's extremely encouraging to hear that West Mercia Police have decided to re-investigate. Their action affirms the value of this baby's life as well as the wider public and legal importance for this issue to be addressed.

"At the moment my legal team believe it's necessary to pursue the judicial review. It will be in the interest of the police investigation for the law to be made clear.

"We hope that the case will bring about this necessary clarification and in doing so will defend and safeguard the rights of vulnerable lives."

The next hearing in the judicial review is expected to take place at the High Court in London from 24 to 26 May.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project