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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent