A senior civil servant has been jailed for more than three and a half years for spiking his pregnant mistress’s orange juice in a bid to cause a miscarriage.
Married father-of-one Darren Burke, 43, former deputy director for the emergency services mobile communications programme at the Home Office, was sentenced to a total of 45 months in prison for crushing up an abortion pill and putting it in Laura Slade’s glass at her flat.
She refused to drink the glass of orange juice, which was laced with mifepristone, a medication used to induce an abortion, on December 4 2020, but suffered an unconnected miscarriage weeks later on Christmas Day.
The breach of the trust that Ms Slade placed in you had aversely affected Miss Slade's ability to trust others
Judge Alistair Hammerton
At a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Isleworth Crown Court Judge Alistair Hammerton told Burke “the breach of the trust that Ms Slade placed in you had aversely affected Miss Slade’s ability to trust others.”
The court also heard how it “makes her feel sick” to think about what would have happened had she ingested the drug, how she had undergone PTSD therapy following the incident and felt “heartbreak” over his “betrayal” following their five-year affair.
Burke sat in the dock wearing a blue suit with a shirt and no tie and looked down for most of the hearing.
The judge said an aggravating factor in the case was Burke’s attempts to conceal his crime by destroying his internet history for the period of time when he bought the pills and for pouring the drugged juice away when she refused to drink it.
Burke went to her home and brought her a glass or orange juice which had been mixed with the drug while he had a cup of tea or coffee, the court heard.However, she refused the drink while she and Burke had a conversation, saying she had morning sickness, before he poured it away and left the flat.
She said that once Burke had gone, she found a white powder – later found to be mifepristone – inside the empty glass and called police to report her suspicions the following day.
The court heard how Burke was suspended from his job at the Home Office following his arrest.
He denied obtaining the drug with intent and attempting to administer it to procure a miscarriage but was found guilty of the second charge by a jury at a trial in May.
The first charge was left to lie on file.
Mitigating, David Spens QC told the court that at the time, Burke’s wife had “fortunately forgiven him his affair and the offence” but it was “doubtful that he would be able to find employment again”.
He also told the court he was struggling with the stress of starting a new job after being made redundant as a result of the pandemic and how his father had become paralysed.