Police are to investigate the late abortion of an unborn child with a cleft palate. West Mercia Police confirmed on Friday that its acting Detective Chief Supt Ray Groves is to head the new inquiry. The investigation follows a judicial review of the case sought by the Rev Joanna Jepson, curate of St Michael's Church in Chester, who believes the operation breached abortion law. Rev Jepson last year won her fight to challenge the police's refusal to prosecute the doctors involved. A police spokesman said a new team of officers has been appointed to carry out further inquiries. In a statement Mr Groves said: "We will approach his investigation with an open mind and interview all people associated with this case. "Our renewed investigation into this sensitive matter will be carried out with due regard to all the parties involved and in the interests of openness and public confidence in the criminal justice system." He said their investigations were likely to last until early summer. The abortion was carried out on a woman from Herefordshire in December 2001, after the legal 24-week limit. Lawyers for Rev Jepson, who was born with a jaw deformity, have argued that police should have taken action because a cleft lip and palate is not a "serious handicap", which would allow the termination under the 1967 Abortion Act. Ms Jepson, said the police decision to reinvestigate was "extremely encouraging". She said: "It affirms the value and worth of this baby's life. The cleft palate can't be classed as a severe handicap therefore this is a case of unlawful killing."
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