CPS decision on case of baby's body dumped in village pond

27/05/2015

East of England Crown Prosecution Service has advised Norfolk Police that it is not in the public interest to prosecute the mother of a baby boy whose body was found in a carrier bag in a village pond in 1988. The identity of the mother was only discovered after fresh evidence came to light last year.

Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor Frank Ferguson said: "The original post mortem on the baby could not show whether the baby was born alive and could not determine a cause of death. There was also no evidence of any injury. A more recent post mortem reached the same conclusions.

"In light of those findings, we concluded that there was no evidence that the baby was unlawfully killed by the mother.

"In her interview with the police, the mother said she gave birth alone, the baby was stillborn and after several days she disposed of the body by throwing it into the pond in the village of Weasenham St Peter. We therefore decided the appropriate offence to consider was one of concealing the birth.

"We are satisfied through the mother's admissions that there is sufficient evidence to show she concealed the birth by secretly disposing of the body. All cases are reviewed according to the Code for Crown Prosecutors which says that where there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, we then have to consider whether a prosecution is in the public interest.

"In this case we have decided it is not in the public interest to prosecute the mother for concealing the birth of the baby. In reaching this decision we took into account the effect this has had on the mother in the 27 years since it happened and the anguish it has caused her. We also considered that any sentence imposed, given the circumstances, is likely to be a nominal one.

"The mother has clearly suffered beyond any punishment a court could impose and a prosecution would not serve any purpose in terms of the interests of justice. We have concluded a prosecution in these circumstances would not be in the public interest.

"Any decision by the CPS does not imply any finding concerning guilt or criminal conduct; the CPS makes decisions only according to the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and it is applied in all decisions on whether or not to prosecute."

Ends

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. The body of a baby boy was found in the village pond in Weasenham St Peter, Norfolk, by four teenagers in June 1988. Appeals at the time for information about the baby or his mother were unsuccessful and the baby was buried in St Peter's Churchyard in the village.

2. The circumstances around the baby's birth and death remained a mystery until the baby's body was exhumed in April 2014 and DNA obtained, leading to the identity of the mother. She was arrested and interviewed by Norfolk Police.

3. East of England CPS considered a charge of concealment of birth contrary to s.60 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861. The maximum sentence for this offence is two years' imprisonment.

4. As an offence of concealment of birth was considered the most appropriate in the circumstances of the case, the CPS did not consider an offence of preventing lawful burial of a body.

5. The CPS's function is not to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges for the criminal court to consider. The CPS assessment of any case is not in any sense a finding of, or implication of, any guilt or criminal conduct. It is not a finding of fact, which can only be made by a court, but rather an assessment of what it might be possible to prove to a court, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, a copy of which is provided via this link:
www.cps.gov.uk/publications/code_for_crown_prosecutors/index.html