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Howard League blog · 14 Apr 2020

How our lawyers helped a young mother and her baby

In the same week that the government announced its plans to release low-risk pregnant women and women with young babies from prison to protect them from coronavirus, our lawyers brought a case to the Court of Appeal on behalf of a young mother in prison.

The Court agreed with our arguments that her sentence had been too long and reduced it. The decision means that she will now have the chance to be released on tag with her baby, whereas the original sentence would have meant she and baby would have been separated when he turned 18 months.

The Court of Appeal agreed that the sentencing court had not had sufficient regard to the young girl’s age and lack of maturity when she was given a lengthy sentence for crimes committed when she was a teenager. The young woman, who was pregnant at the point of sentence, gave birth to her baby in prison. In England and Wales women who give birth in prison can be placed in mother and baby units with their child until their baby reaches the age of 18 months. After this point, if mum is not eligible to be released then her baby will be separated from her and removed from her care.

This judgment will have an immeasurable impact on this young mother’s ability to contribute to society and provide for her child on release

The significant reduction in sentence means that this young mother and her baby will not be exposed to the damaging effects of separation. The reduction in sentence also means that this young mother’s conviction is no longer one that can never be spent. As an unspent conviction must be disclosed if asked when you are applying for a job, for college or even to rent a house, this judgment will have an immeasurable impact on this young mother’s ability to contribute to society and provide for her child on release.

This was a case that our lawyers took on well after the girl had been sentenced and the Court of Appeal made an initial decision not to consider an appeal against sentence. Convinced that the original sentence imposed on the child was too long and the consequences too grave, both for her and her baby, the Howard League took over the case and renewed the application to the Court of Appeal.

This case is yet another example of the many girls and women who get sentenced too harshly without sufficient regard for the legal requirements to take into account the need to apply a different approach to women and girls, flagged up so many years ago by Baroness Corston.


  • New Zealand increased the time women can have their babies in jail from eighteen months to three years about seven years ago.
    Some on-off capital expenditure needed, but the outcomes are extremely positive and contribute to reduced re-offending

  • Phil Martin says:

    Well done Frances, to you and all at The Howard League.

    This was absolutely the right decision and it is certainly life-changing.

    It does highlight how many vulnerable people slip through the cracks in legal aid and who struggle to secure effective and ongoing representation after initial sentencing.

    Thank you for all you do, both in helping people and also in raising awareness of such important issues.

  • Jez says:

    It shows that people are still not receiving good legal representation on the first attempt at appeal. It’s vital that ALL the elements are properly scrutinized to ensure a proportionate sentence is issued in the first place.
    Well done😊

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