Breastfeeding mum ‘has no choice’ and will take 8-week old baby to jury service

A breastfeeding new mum said she will take her eight-week-old baby to court after her request to defer jury duty was denied.

Zoe Stacey, 36, says she was told giving birth to baby William just two months ago is not an excuse to delay jury duty.

She attempted to appeal and change the dates – but was told she’ll be expected to turn up to Winchester Crown Court next month.

Full-time mum Zoe said she is still breastfeeding so will have no choice but to bring baby William into the jury box.

She added she is unwilling to leave him at home for such a long time, due to his young age.

The mum-of-two who suffered a number of illnesses after birth, said: “I breastfed my first son until well after his first birthday and I plan to do the same with William.

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“Having gone through everything I did on top of breastfeeding, obviously people who choose to feed also have the right to be granted parental leave.

“Even just being sleep deprived, I wouldn’t want people giving a judgment on me in a trial as it’s really difficult to give your focus to anything in that first year.

“I had to give them several dates within that time frame where I would be prepared to serve for ten days.

“I don’t want to leave my child for ten days, a night is the longest I left my other son.

“We recently relocated from Hertfordshire to Hampshire and I don’t have a massive support system to rely on.

“I’m just a bit surprised they are pushing it so much, I really thought that being a new parent and breastfeeding as well would be grounds for exemption.

“I can’t believe I have to fight for it. I thought there’d be more common sense and compassion.

“Not only is breastfeeding an issue, I have a child and another three-and-a-half year old child, there’s also the lockdown and the situation with childcare.”

Just one week after his birth on February 15 2021, Zoe and William contracted neonatal mastitis and had to go to hospital for three courses of antibiotics.

Poorly William then got tongue-tie and both suffered thrush from the antibiotics, and her husband Peter Stacey, 36, had to look after their other young son Thomas, three.

She received a letter on April 2 summoning her for jury service on May 24, and she immediately went online to apply for exemption.

Her request was rejected, and she was initially offered the opportunity to defer her jury service to another date.

But ten minutes, she got an email confirming her court date in May at Winchester Crown Court.

Zoe, from Fair Oak, Hampshire, said: “There’s no consideration.

“It feels like a bit of an automated ‘computer says no’, rather than reading what I put they just rejected them.”

She searched the internet and found that plenty of other new mums had had a similar response to her when requesting exemption from jury service.

She said: “It’s not consistent; a lot of people have been excused and some people haven’t even been deferred.

“What I’d really like to push for is like in Scotland where a breastfeeding woman who requests an excusal shouldn’t be refused.

“They need a policy down here. It seems to depend on who reads your email. It’s very hit and miss.”

Zoe appealed the decision again over the weekend but if this fails she plans to take baby William into the jury box with her and hopes the judge will see sense.

The maximum penalty for not attending jury service is £1,000 which must be paid within 28 days, otherwise 14 days’ imprisonment is imposed by default.

Exhausted Zoe said: “When I’m feeding Will in the middle of the night and I’m sleep deprived it’s going through my mind.

“I understand it’s a civic duty and I think it’s really important, I just don’t think it’s realistic to request parents to do it in the first year, especially during the pandemic.

“We have been isolated, no socialising, not a lot of support around and it’s been very difficult compared to my first child where we had other mums we were with and had groups to go to.

“It’s been stressful for a lot of people with what’s been going on. You throw in a child and sleepless nights and being asked to serve on a jury when it’s not a nice time.”

The Jury Central Summoning Bureau, part of the UK government, has been approached for comment.