This morning I was asked this very question on LBC, and found it a really interesting discussion.


In July of this year, a lady posted on a Facebook page, Free to Feed, that she had been breastfeeding her baby in Primark when a security guard had asked her to leave. When she stood her ground and refused to leave, she alleged that the security guard had removed her child from her breast and walked away, telling her if she wanted her daughter, she should come and get her.

I remember seeing the post, and I remember thinking it was shocking. Actually, it’s more accurate to say I remember seeing it several times. It was shared a lot. Posts like that, where someone has been told to leave an establishment for breastfeeding, tend to go viral on social media. People get (quite rightly) enraged about it and often when something like this happens, there is talk of boycotting, or having a “feed-in” where groups of women head to the shop in question and feed their babies.

After the post went viral on Facebook, the media picked it up and some newspapers ran the story.

As it happens, Primark looked at the CCTV footage of the day and could not find any evidence of what this lady said had happened. In fact, when they looked at the staff roster for the day, there were no security guards on shift that day fitting the description this lady had given. She was eventually charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and admitted in court that the whole thing had been a lie.

Sentencing has been adjourned until December, but a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice carries the potential for an 18-month prison sentence.

Should this lady go to prison?

On the one hand, she has told a lie that has brought Primark (and its security guards) into disrepute. Thousands of people will have seen that Facebook post, but only a fraction will have heard the later story that it was all a lie.

Aside from bringing Primark into disrepute, she has wasted time and money: the police had to investigate it, and then there’s the time and money involved in taking the case to court to charge her. Aside from this, there’s the fact that the next woman to whom this sort of thing genuinely happens may well be disbelieved by a lot of people. Crying wolf doesn’t only affect you, but the people who come after you!

On the other though, if she was so desperate for attention that she made up a story to go viral on Facebook… isn’t the ridicule of those same Facebookers punishment enough? To be outed as a liar, to be spoken about in the national press in such a negative way is no small thing.

And if she goes to prison, who really loses out? Yes, she spends up to 18 months in a prison cell – but it’s our taxes that will pay for that, when they have already paid for the police investigation and court case. Furthermore, she is a mother. If she goes to prison, even if only for a few months, what effect will that have on her children? While I don’t believe she should “get away” with doing this, I don’t believe her children should be punished for her stupidity – and if she went to prison, they would.

What do you think? Should she go to prison for this?

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


Amanda · 25/09/2015 at 11:40

It’s a very interesting question, and I don’t think there is an easy answer to it. As you say, she caused a lot of problems, but it sounds far more like a cry for attention than a carefully planned attempt to target someone specifically or cause this level of uproar. I cannot imagine, for one second, that somebody would do this maliciously without realising the extent to which it could backfire (surely if you wanted to harm Primark, for example, you would be far more careful and make your claim far more believable and harder to dispute, wouldn’t you?) When I first saw the post, I couldn’t actually believe it… I hate to say it, but I watched it unfold waiting for it all to fall apart, because the claim she made was so ludicrous there was no way that it could have happened that way without somebody stepping in and stopping it at the time, if it had happened at all. Like I say, it sounded more like somebody who desperately needed attention from a few “kind” people and didn’t realise how far it would go or the damage it would cause. And because of that, I think that a prison sentence isn’t the answer… what is that going to achieve? As you say, it will punish the children as much as the mother, and it won’t change what has happened. But equally it did cause damage and that needs to be addressed. Perhaps the answer is in finding the underlying reason why it happened in the first place, whatever it may be, and addressing that? I sure don’t envy the person making that decision…

Michelle · 25/09/2015 at 13:48

this is a tough one and you pose the question so well. I am outraged that she went to this extent to lie about something that is happening to breastfeeding mothers all over, especially here in the U.S. But when she stated that the security guard took her baby from her, that’s when I started to doubt her story because even if he did have a right to ask her to leave, no one has a right to snatch one’s child away. It’s illegal and also immature. She should pay some sort of consequence for her actions but I don’t think it would be a good idea for her to spend time in prison for it. Like you said, she is a mother and her children need her. I really hope she learns from this and teaches her children to make better choices in the future. Maybe she is feeling so isolated that she needed someone to pay attention to her. She obviously went about it the wrong way but their is an underlying issue here for her that Someone needs to look into. Great post Vicky! Thanks for sharing!

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