Second breastfeeding mum booted from court

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Just days after asking a breastfeeding woman to leave a Melbourne courtroom, a second mother has been ejected by the same County Court judge.

On Tuesday, a woman breastfeeding in the public gallery was asked by Judge Mark Gamble to leave the courtroom, saying the “unsettled and crying” infant would be a distraction for the jury.

The woman was protesting the ejection of a breastfeeding woman on Thursday with a group of other mothers outside the court.

She had sat in the courtroom when it was opened shortly after 10am, and began breastfeeding the child moments after Judge Gamble returned to the bench at 10.15am.

He told her the trial was at a “critical stage” and any distraction would be “unfair” to the jury and involved parties.

“Madam I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to leave the court with your baby,” he said.

“Whilst this is an open court, this is a critical stage of the trial in which the defence is presenting their closing address to the jury. They need to be able to focus on that and the jury needs to be able to focus on what the defence are saying without distraction.”

His Honour Judge Mark Gamble. Picture: Supplied.His Honour Judge Mark Gamble. Picture: Supplied.

Prosecutor Justin Lewis said it was “chiefly” the unsettled nature of the baby that was an issue, while Barrister Ian Hill KC agreed it would be a “distraction” for the court.

The woman asked to leave on Tuesday was not the person who was asked to leave the same court on Thursday last week.

Judge Gamble defended his actions on Friday, after multiple news outlets ran stories on the decision.

“It should all be self-explanatory, members of the jury,” he said.

“What I said was this, and I am reading from the transcripts: ‘Madam, you will not be permitted to breastfeed a baby in court. I’m sorry. I will have to ask you to leave. It will be a distraction for the jury at the very least. Thank you’.

“I’m telling you this because it is something that has attracted some media publicity, and I think you need to know exactly what it was that I said and why I said it.

“As I said a moment ago, I think that it is self-explanatory.”

Judge Mark Gamble said the crying infant would be a distraction to jurors. Picture: NewsWire.Judge Mark Gamble said the crying infant would be a distraction to jurors. Picture: NewsWire.

Asking to remain anonymous, the woman ejected on Thursday told The Herald Sun she felt singled out.

“We’re not where we were 20 years ago, but this experience left me feeling that there is a lot more education needed on this issue,” she said.

“I don’t want any other mother to have to go through the overwhelming shame and humiliation that I experienced.

“That’s why I’m speaking out, to raise awareness.”

The decision to eject the woman on Thursday was met with criticism by women’s advocacy groups and high-profile women.

Former politician Kirstie Marshall, who was asked to leave Victorian parliament while she breastfed in 2003, said it seemed attitudes to mothers had not shifted in two decades.

“I thought we, as a modern society, were well and truly past this,” she said.

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