England: Imprisonment of woman over abortion ‘unlikely’ to have been just
The imprisonment of a 45-year-old woman in England who admitted to causing her own abortion during the lockdowns was “unlikely” to be just, senior judges have said.
Carla Foster was given a 28-month prison term after obtaining tablets when she was between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant.
She was released in July, however, after the Court of Appeal gave her a suspended sentence of 14 months.
The three judges – led by Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the King’s Bench division – have given their reasons for the reduction.
Dame Victoria said the court considered that “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”.
She added that was “precisely the case” in relation to Ms Foster, who had also suffered a significant “unreasonable” delay. After admitting to police she induced the abortion there was a delay of more than two years before she was told she would be charged.
The judge added that “whilst appreciating the impact of the Covid pandemic on the prosecuting authorities … this delay was not the responsibility of Ms Foster and was, objectively speaking, unreasonable”.
Doctors who had pleaded for leniency in Ms Foster’s case were taken to task by the court. The judges said “that this form of special pleading was inappropriate”, adding that “the same would have been true of a letter from a group campaigning for more restrictive laws on abortion, calling for a deterrent sentence in this case … It is disappointing and concerning that the authors, all eminent in their own professional fields, did not understand this.”