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Manslaughter retrial sparks debate over social services role

The Support not Separation organisation has been seeking an end to the proceedings of a British couple found guilty of concealing the birth of a baby girl and perverting the course of justice. The couple face a retrial after the jury failed to reach a decision on manslaughter charges.


Harry Allen


The old bailey trial involving Constance Marten, 37, and Mark Gordon, 50, was discharged last Wednesday after 6 months of proceedings. After more than 72 hours of deliberations, the jury couldn’t decide if the pair were guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence, and causing or allowing the death of their daughter Vitoria. The couple have denied the charges so far.

Victoria was the couple’s fifth child, as their other four children had been taken into care by social services prior to their arrest in February 2023.  Her lifeless body was found in a shed in Sussex near where they had been on the run and had previously been hiding. Marten claims she fell asleep with Victoria in her arms, before learning of the death.

The relationship between the two defendants has been the subject of much discussion, as Gordon is a convicted sex offender and 13 years older than Marten, whose own background lies in aristocratic beginnings.

The retrial raises questions over the effectiveness of the social services system in Britain that currently oversees 83,400 children.

A hung jury is not indicative of any decision in legal terms, but it means that Marten and Gordon’s case has not been a clear cut decision.

“The focus has always been, and remains, securing justice for baby Victoria,” prosecutors reaffirmed in a short statement. For its part the Met Police have so far said they will not be making any further public statements until Gordon and Marten’s retrial is over. However, Support not Separation (SNS), a campaign focused on forced child separation from mothers and primary carers say “Ms Marten was repeatedly told in court that she could not re-visit the family court cases involving her four older children.”

SNS adds that “she [Marten] went on the run to protect Victoria from being taken at birth.”

The case has polarised opinion especially as it is known that private social service firms often make up to £1 million per child for housing, feeding and supporting children in private care homes while local authorities are going bankrupt, unable to provide vital services to vulnerable mothers.

“Ms Marten needed support not prosecution”, SNS claim, referring to the injustices faced by mothers embroiled in the social services system. 90% of child adoptions are happening without birth parents consent, while social services and family courts are fast-tracking a majority of child adoption cases into a profit-driven social system.

Ensuring family courts work on the same basis as criminal courts in needing ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ evidence, could be a start. The burden of proof in civil courts is far lower, leaving mothers without adequate legal protections.

Support not Separation have been pushing Stephen Parkinson, director of public prosecutions to abandon the retrial that is now provisionally set for March 3rd, 2025.

To find out more about the Support not Separation campaign click here.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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