THE murder conviction and minimum 12-year jail term for a 19-year-old Ruardean woman who was 15 when her newborn baby died has been slammed by the nation’s former Chief Inspector of Probation and Youth Justice Board chairman.
He is not the only one to express disquiet about the decision to charge, try and convict Paris Mayo of murdering her new born son at her Ross-on-Wye home in 2019, with a historian and woman’s rights author saying the whole process raised serious questions.
In his summing up, Judge Neil Garnham gave the jury the option of an infanticide verdict - where the balance of a mother’s mind is disturbed by the whole process of giving birth – after an expert had told Worcester Crown Court she was probably in ‘pregnancy denial’ and traumatised by the experience.
But the jury chose to convict the former John Kyrle pupil of murder, after the prosecution said she had assaulted the new born around the head and suffocated him with cotton wool.
The trial heard that no one knew she was pregnant when she gave birth alone in the living room of her Springfield Avenue family home in March 2019, while her sick father, who died 10 days later, was upstairs having dialysis.
And former probation watchdog Professor Rod Morgan has slammed her jailing in a letter to The Guardian.
He wrote: “The jailing of Paris Mayo should bring us up short.
“What on earth are we doing when current penal policy suggests that this is an appropriate sentence for a child offender who killed her newborn child but who, in the judge’s words, was “vulnerable” and “ill-supported at home”?
“What purpose does such a lengthy minimum sentence serve?”
Julie Wheelwright, historian and author of ‘Sisters in Arms: Female Warriors from Antiquity to the New Millennium’ goes further, saying women who kill their newborns are deeply unwell and should not be tried for murder.
In an opinion piece in the same national newspaper, she says the jury’s decision to reject the option given them of infanticide is “deeply troubling”.
Her murder conviction shows that women and girls who conceal a pregnancy and subsequently cause the death of their infant are being treated with an ever more punitive approach, she adds, flying in the face of scientific research that shows the mothers “are incredibly vulnerable and experience pregnancy as a moment of crisis”.
And she says Dr Emma Milne, an associate professor in criminal law and criminal justice at Durham University is “concerned” that the option of infanticide for causing the death of a child under the age of one is “being swept aside”.
The professor highlights “a perceived ‘hardening from the Crown Prosecution Service’ towards such cases and a misunderstanding of the psychological state these women experience”.
The defendants have often lived with “violence and abuse, as Mayo did” under an “emotionally cruel father”, and “fear the discovery of their pregnancy”, adds Wheelwright in the Guardian.
“Isolated and terrified, they deny their condition, and deliver a baby without assistance or pain relief, viewing their infant as a “problem” that can only be solved by being “unborn”,” she writes.
But she notes that despite Justice Garnham acknowledging her appalling situation and the fact that she was, in his words, a “rather pathetic 15-year-old girl”, he still jailed her for at least 12 years.
One woman who got in touch with the Gazette questioned whether the jury were given any training about the medical and psychological knowledge that “pregnancy denial is a known mental state in a pregnant girl/woman, and well documented as a phenomenon which can lead to infanticide?”
And she highlights a medical journal that says: “When a woman in denial of pregnancy is seen, she requires emergency psychiatric management to avert the possibility of neonatal killing.”