Eaglescliffe woman found not guilty of ‘home abortion’

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Prosecutors said there was “no real prospect” of convicting 22-year-old Bethany Cox
By Philippa Goymer

A woman charged with carrying out an illegal abortion on herself has been found not guilty on the eve of her trial after the prosecution dropped the case due to “evidential difficulties”.

Bethany Cox, 22, from Eaglescliffe in Stockton, was accused of child destruction and using misoprostol to procure her own miscarriage in 2020.

She pleaded not guilty to both charges at Teesside Crown Court in August 2023.

Her defence barrister said the case was an “extraordinary state of affairs”.

Jolyon Perks, for the prosecution, told Teesside Crown Court the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was invited to review the case on 19 December and it was then that the decision was made not to proceed with the charges against Ms Cox.

‘No choice’

Mr Perks told the court a full review was carried out, before the defence was told on 22 December the case would not proceed as the CPS was “not in possession of key evidence” and there was “no real prospect of a conviction”.

Nicholas Lumley KC, for Ms Cox, said it was an “extraordinary state of affairs”, adding that she gave birth in July 2020, at the end of the first Covid-19 lockdown, and “in the throes of grief” she was interviewed by police and was under investigation for three years before being charged and appearing in court in July 2023.

It is not known how or when the baby died.

A week-long trial was set to be held next week

Mr Lumley said it was “beyond regrettable” and Ms Cox had suffered so extensively, all the while “grieving for what took place”.

Judge Paul Watson, the recorder of Middlesbrough, said the court had “no choice” but to direct a not guilty verdict on both charges.

Ms Cox did not appear at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday.

‘Carefully considered’

The two charges dated from the beginning of July 2020.

She was charged under Section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which makes it an offence for a woman to unlawfully procure her own abortion.

The first charge stated that on 6 July in Stockton she administered drugs to procure an abortion with the intent to destroy the life of a child capable of being born alive.

The second alleged that between 2 and 7 July she administered misoprostol with “intent to procure your own miscarriage”.

A CPS spokesperson said: “Cases of this nature are carefully considered and a prosecution will only take place where the evidential standard has been met.

“Following a further review of this case, we have concluded that our legal test is no longer met.”

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15 August 2023

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