A NEW mum who was told that breastfeeding was no excuse to miss jury duty has been sent an apology by the court.
Aileen Robertson, 39, asked to be excused from service as her seven-month-old was still breastfeeding.
But the Fife mother was told that was no excuse and she could “use a bottle” instead.
This would mean leaving Isaac, her first child, at home and either leaving him with enough expressed milk to last a week or switching to formula.
She was even asked to provide a medical certificate to back her request.
The comment, made by an official at Dunfermline Sheriff court, was condemned by breastfeeding campaigners as “appalling”.
But now the court service has apologised to Mrs Robinson, and confirmed that she was excused from attending the hearing which began on March 16.
Breastfeeding groups have now called for all mothers to be exempt from jury service until they feel able to leave their baby with a trusted carer.
Anna Burbidge of the international charitable breastfeeding support organisation La Leche League GB (LLLGB) said: “We are pleased to hear that Dunfermline Sheriff court has agreed to excuse Aileen from any jury service.
“We hope that this means they will also reconsider their guidelines with regard to calling any breastfeeding mother for jury duty.
“It is inappropriate to insist that a mother who is breastfeeding should have to leave her baby. It will be distressing for both mother and baby, disruptive to her milk supply, and possibly detrimental to the health of both.
“It’s important that breastfeeding mothers get acknowledgement and understanding that they cannot just leave their babies with a bottle, particularly when they have no way of knowing how long they may be away.
“In fact, LLLGB would like to see mothers of young babies, whether they be breast or bottle fed, exempt from jury service until such time as they feel able to leave their babies with a trusted carer.”
Rosemary Dodds, senior policy advisor with the National Childbirth trust, agreed.
“Some babies are dependant on their mother as their main carer, and I would like to see recognition of this special relationship in the legal system,” she said.
“It’s great news the right decision was made in this instance, but it’s a shame that Aileen was put through this stress in the first place.”
A spokeswoman from the Scottish Court Service said: “In this particular case there was an excusal from jury service.
“It is not our policy to request a medical certificate for excusal on grounds of breastfeeding and we apologised that one was suggested in this instance.
“In other cases where an excusal is sought on medical grounds we would seek supporting documentation.”
Mrs Robertson has declined to comment on the apology, but said before the hearing that she was “confused” when she was first told she had to provide a doctors note.
“Breastfeeding is not an illness or a medical condition,” she said. “Health services are doing everything they can to promote breastfeeding, so it does not make sense for the court service to make things more difficult.
“In my case, I do not have the option of expressing and giving him milk in a bottle because he simply won’t take it. I don’t even have a breast pump.
“There would be the issue of childcare as well. I’m currently on maternity leave so somebody would have to look after him.
“He is fed about five times a day so even if he took milk from a bottle it would be almost impossible for me to express that amount if I was on jury duty.”
She added that there needed to be “clearer guidelines” set in place to prevent this from reoccurring.