A judge has ejected a second breastfeeding mum from his court room describing her crying baby as a distraction to the jury.
It’s the second time in a week that the same judge has booted a breastfeeding woman from the public gallery.
Judge ejects second breastfeeding mum
Peta Brunel, a 33-year-old mother and former lawyer, attended the Victorian County Court with her five-month-old child, Tilly.
Judge Mark Gamble ejected Ms Brunel after her baby started crying in the court room after the hearing had begun.
The judge told the woman that given the critical stage of the trial, and the need for the jury to concentrate, an unsettled child would present a distraction.
Ms Brunel had joined a group of breastfeeding mothers protesting judge Mark Gamble’s decision last week to eject a woman from court for breastfeeding.
‘Women have the right to feed in a public space’
The young mother told The Age:
“The woman hadn’t done anything wrong. She was just breastfeeding, from what I understand, her very young baby.
“It’s hard enough having a young baby, and it’s hard enough breastfeeding in public at the best of times, no matter where it is.
“I just think women have the right to feed in a public space, whether that is a restaurant, a public park, but also in the courtroom.
“It’s called a public gallery. So, every member of the public should be able to sit there.”
The first incident
Judge Gamble came under fire last week when he ordered a woman out of the same court room for breastfeeding.
The woman had been feeding her child in the public gallery when the judge suddenly addressed her directly:
“Madam, you will not be permitted to breastfeed a baby in court,” he said.
“It will be a distraction, and I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
The woman then got up and left the courtroom with her child.
Mum felt ashamed
She later told The Herald-Sun she felt ashamed when the judge singled her out.
“As soon as I was out of the courtroom I started crying. I was shocked. I felt degraded,” she said.
The mother said she sat in the corner of the courtroom with a blanket over her child – “fully covered up”.
She earlier had asked a court security guard if she could bring her baby into the courtroom and she had also checked for any signs warning against breastfeeding.
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Lawyers side with judge
Lawyers acting for the defence and prosecution both agreed that the crying baby would be a distraction to the jury.
“All I can say is it’s a distraction, it shouldn’t be occurring,” the defence barrister told Gamble.
“Prosecution agrees that the context here is one in which we’ve had the publicity last week and that really heightens the issue somewhat,” the prosecution barrister agreed.
Meanwhile, Stacey Harley, the organiser of this week’s protest, told The Age that the judge’s conduct left her “outraged”.
“I want to be respectful to the courts as well, and I don’t understand what it’s like in a courtroom and to be a judge, but breastfeeding is protected by law under the Equal Opportunity Act of 2010,” she said.
“I’m raising awareness for that. We were protected by law to breastfeed where we like.”
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