A GLOBAL news website has joined the criticism of a teenage mum’s murder conviction and jailing for at least 12 years.
The jury at Worcester Crown Court found her guilty of murdering the newborn last month, despite being offered an infanticide verdict by the judge, a decision that was slammed in a national newspaper by former Chief Inspector of Probation, Professor Rod Morgan, alongside an associate professor in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, and a respected author.
Now the World Socialist Web Site has also weighed into the “unprecedented” verdict and “brutal” sentence, highlighting what it claims was a “highly contradictory” summing up” by Justice Neil Garnham, which acknowledged that Mayo was “alone and unsupported” when she gave birth and “frightened and traumatised”.
“I have no doubt that the birthing process was not just painful, but overwhelming,” he said.
But also pointing out the huge delay in bringing the case to court, Julie Hyland writes: “Nonetheless, Mayo was sentenced as an adult for something that occurred when she was still a child and clearly in a disturbed mental state.”
Hyland also points out that several medical experts testified that Mayo had “created a false memory”, while the court heard she had a difficult home life, with her ill father dying just 10 days after the birth, and was “scared” to admit to herself or tell her parents she might be pregnant.
She says: “Dr John Sandford explained, “As a 15-year-old girl giving birth, she went into a state of shock, of panic and distress, with very high anxiety and emotional trauma. Such events could lead to a disturbance of the balance of her mind…
“He (Justice Garnham) also recorded, “On the question of pre-meditation, I reject the prosecution’s suggestion that the previous six or seven months had been devoted to avoiding detection of your pregnancy or concealment of the forthcoming birth or that this was an offence with significant preplanning.”
But in view of those facts, Hyland asks: “How, after hearing such a tragic account, did the court respond with such a brutal sentence?”
The jury’s majority murder verdict “closed off” “every legal avenue of accounting for the fact that Mayo was clearly in a terrible situation and a disturbed state of mind”, she adds.
The prosecution told Worcester Crown Court that Mayo, now 19, who attended John Kyrle School and later Monmouth Comprehensive, had killed the newborn baby by assaulting him and stuffing cotton wool down his throat before putting the body in a bin bag.
But Hyland further points out that Justice Garnham labelled the testimony of Dr Harding”, a prosecution witness who claimed her mind was not disturbed by giving birth, “somewhat unsatisfactory”.
In “what should have been a damning comment”, the judge told the court the medical expert had “formed a clear and unshakeable view of your culpability from the time of his very first meeting with you".
“He had told the police that you ought to be prosecuted, a surprising opinion for an expert called to give evidence on a defendant’s mental state to express, and one which he agreed in his oral evidence ought not to have appeared in his report…
“In my view, he demonstrated in his oral evidence an inflexibility of thinking that seemed to me unhelpful in as complex and difficult a case as this one.”
And Hyland also notes that the judge locked her up for at least 12 years while saying: “Despite listening to all the evidence over the last six weeks, I have detected nothing to suggest you would be a danger to children or to anyone else, (with the possible exception of another child of your own if you were to fall pregnant again in similar circumstances, which is a remote possibility given the sentence I am about to impose).”
Professor Morgan, who is also the ex-chairman of the Youth Justice Board, wrote in a scathing letter to the Guardian last week: “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?”