Primark has responded to allegations of an incident in which a woman said her nursing baby was snatched from her breast by a security guard on a store premises.
Caroline Starmer, 28, posted the claims on the Facebook page for pro-breastfeeding site Free to Feed in which she recounted a “horrific experience” at her local Primark store in Leicester.
Starmer wrote: “My 9.5 month old daughter started crying, needing a feed and the queues were pretty long, so to save my daughter the upset, and the other customers too, I decided to find a quiet spot out the way of others and feed her discreetly.
Caroline Starmer claimed a security guard physically removed her child from her breast
“Within five minutes of doing so, I was approached by a security guard who asked me to vacate the premises to feed my daughter. I stood my ground and stated my rights, that I can legally feed where I want.. Just for the security officer to physically remove my daughter from my breast and walk down the store with her, saying if I wanted my daughter, then I was to come and get her.
“Obviously, I went and retrieved my daughter as soon as my senses got the better of me. And I went straight to the local police station afterwards to lodge a complaint.
“My husband has been on the phone to the assistant manager of the Primark store on and off all afternoon, and they said they would investigate it. However, since he admitted he could see me on CCTV, he hasn't called back since. My confidence is shot, and my poor daughter hasn't been herself all afternoon.”
Primark initially informed Huffington Post UK it was urgently investigating the incident and stressed store policy, which that states nursing mothers are welcome to breastfeed in its stores.
But on Tuesday afternoon a spokesman for the discount clothing store said: “We have investigated this customer’s allegation which we naturally take very seriously indeed.
“The CCTV footage, reviewed by store management, shows the customer in the Leicester store quite clearly during the time in question. We can see no evidence that she was approached by anyone during this period.
The incident is alleged to have occurred at a branch of Primark in Leicester on Monday (file picture)
“We have spoken to the security guards on duty. They categorically deny behaving in the way alleged. Furthermore the individuals do not fit the description given by the customer. [Starmer later told another media outlet the security guard in question was Asian and around 5ft 10ins tall.]
“We have therefore concluded that the customer allegation is not supported by the available evidence to date. The company would obviously be happy to work with any police investigation into this incident, should this be needed.
“We have tried to contact the customer to reassure her about Primark’s practice on breastfeeding.
“At Primark, we work hard to provide all the comfort and facilities possible to our customers. Our policy is quite clear. We do not prohibit breastfeeding. In addition, any customer can request a quiet or private area within the store to breastfeed her child and our staff will do all they can to accommodate such a request. Please do not hesitate to ask staff for assistance.”
A spokesman for Leicester Police said: "We have spoken to the woman involved and arrangements have been made to take further statements in relation to the allegations."
Starmer told the MailOnline the security guard's alleged actions also upset her baby Paige, causing her to bite down on her nipple.
The Equality Act 2010 states businesses cannot discriminate against breastfeeding mothers (file picture)
She said: “The pain was excruciating, because she was pulled off my breast against her will, she instantly clamped down with her two bottom teeth causing a lot of pain to me.
“I was stunned, I didn't know what to do, this stranger had hold of my daughter and was walking off with her screaming while I had my breast exposed and my other daughter in the pushchair.
“When I regained my senses I sprinted after him and stood in front of him. I grabbed Paige off him and he just sneered at me and walked off.”
The Equality Act 2010 states: A business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age.
"A business may ask a breastfeeding woman to leave their premises if the reason for this request is not due to her breastfeeding. However, if the woman later claims that discrimination occurred because she was breastfeeding, the business will have to prove that there was in fact no discrimination."
It adds: "DO train all your employees, especially those who deal with the public, to be aware of the protection from discrimination given to breastfeeding mothers under the Equality Act 2010."
Emily Slough of Free to Feed has requested to view footage of the incident, writing on Facebook: "Until we are able to view the CCTV footage first hand it's impossible to speculate on the true details of this matter. One word against another.
"I have spoken to Primark's PR and have requested the release of the footage as this will bring much needed clarity either way."