Prosecutors have dropped charges against a woman accused of using poison to bring about an abortion as the first coronavirus lockdown ended.

Bethany Cox denied taking a drug on July 6 2020 with intent to destroy the life of a child that was capable of being born alive in the knowledge it would lead to the termination of the pregnancy.

The 22-year-old was also charged with administering a poison between July 2 and July 7 2020 with intent to procure a miscarriage.

Ms Cox, from Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, was due to stand trial next week but on Tuesday prosecutor Jolyon Perks formally offered no evidence in the case due to “evidential difficulties” in rebutting her defence statement.The Northern Echo:

Mr Perks told Teesside Crown Court: “The Crown came to the conclusion they were not in possession of key evidence to rebut the defence case; as such there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.”

Nicholas Lumley KC, representing Ms Cox, said she had given the same account in her defence statement as she had to police officers immediately after the incident, and it was “beyond regrettable” that her case had got to such a late stage.

He told the court: “This is an extraordinary state of affairs where Bethany Cox gave birth to her child in July 2020.

“In the throes of grief she was interviewed, gave an account telling the police what she had done.

“She was under investigation for three years, then prosecuted, then at the 11th hour, when the court and defence highlighted evidential difficulties… The defence statement echoes what she told police three years earlier, the evidential difficulties have always been there.

“The prosecution now accept what she said to the police must have been right. That is beyond regrettable.”

Mr Lumley said a psychiatric examination had confirmed that the proceedings had had a “profound” effect on Ms Cox, who was not present at the hearing.

He added: “The reason Bethany Cox doesn’t want to be here is that she’s suffered so extensively as a result of this investigation, all the while grieving for what happened.”

The court heard that the judge who was due to try the case, Mrs Justice Lambert, had invited the Crown Prosecution Service to review the case at a hearing in December, and that following the review prosecutors decided there was no realistic prospect of conviction.

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Judge Paul Watson, KC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said: “The court has no alternative but to direct not guilty verdicts be entered in this case, and that she is acquitted and her name cleared.”

Rachael Clarke, chief of staff at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said: “We welcome the withdrawal of charges against a young woman in Teesside, and are delighted that this case will not proceed to an unnecessary and gruelling trial.

“We hope that she can now begin to move on from this lengthy and no doubt emotional ordeal.”