'Insufficient evidence' for charges over baby's death at vicarage

Miss Percival told detectives that following the birth, she thought the baby was asleep or deceased.
Miss Percival told detectives that following the birth, she thought the baby was asleep or deceased.
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The Crown Prosecution Service has said there remains "insufficient evidence" to charge anyone over the death of a baby boy at a vicarage.

An inquest into the death of Jonathan Percival was halted last October when a coroner decided to refer the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions after a medic told the hearing the youngster would have survived if resuscitation attempts had been made.

Jonathan's mother, Ruth Percival, 30, gave birth in a downstairs bathroom of the vicarage in Freckleton, Lancashire, while on the toilet, and her father, James, 66, then vicar of Holy Trinity CE Church, came in to help.

The Rev Percival went on to tell police the child appeared "sallow and lifeless" and he thought was "obviously deceased", but Blackpool Coroner's Court was told the baby could have survived up to 15 minutes after delivery on November 25 2014.

Both Mr Percival and his daughter were arrested and questioned on suspicion of child neglect before prosecutors advised police last April there was insufficient evidence and to take no further action. The pair were initially arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child.

In a statement to the Press Association, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "The CPS has conducted a further detailed review of the evidence in the case of the death of a baby, Jonathan Percival, following the adjournment of the inquest and the referral of the case by HM Coroner Alan Wilson to the DPP.

"The CPS has concluded that there remains insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for a criminal prosecution. The further review included a review of the transcripts of evidence given during the inquest and an additional report which was commissioned from Dr Gottstein, a consultant neonatologist following the adjournment.

"The CPS has written to the Coroner to explain the decision and to confirm that the inquest can now be continued."

Last October, the inquest heard Jonathan was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck between 3.30pm and 4pm, but was not seen by a medical professional until about 5.35pm when Mr Percival let paramedics into the family home at Sunnyside Close.

During that period, the baby was left alone in the house wrapped in a towel on a sofa as the pair visited their local GP for a pre-arranged appointment, the inquest was told.

Mr Percival waited in the car park of the GP's surgery while his daughter sat in the waiting room, the court heard.

After Miss Percival gave an account of the incident, an ambulance was called to the surgery for Miss Percival and her father was told he should go home to meet paramedics.

But, the inquest was told, Mr Percival did not immediately go home and instead went to collect his wife from a local garden centre and drove her to the surgery.

The inquest was told Miss Percival was living with her father and mother, Susan, 66, at the time of the birth, which was a full-term pregnancy.

She was said to have known she was pregnant and had wanted an abortion, but was told by the Marie Stopes clinic in Manchester that she was '"too far on''.

In medical notes, it was recorded she had then "buried her head in the sand and forgot about it''

Miss Percival told detectives that following the birth, she thought the baby was asleep or deceased.

No attempt was made to ring 999, the inquest was told.

A post-mortem examination concluded the cause of death was "unascertained".

Giving evidence, consultant neonatologist Dr Ruth Gottstein said statistical data showed that when babies were born with the cord around their neck, there was an 80% survival rate with resuscitation.

She went on to tell the court: "If resuscitation had been initiated, I think the baby would have survived.

"Mouth-to-mouth would have done a good job."