Infanticide refers to the act of intentionally causing the death of an infant, typically defined as a child under the age of one year. It is a form of murder specifically focused on newborns and very young children. Infanticide can take various forms, including but not limited to smothering, suffocating, poisoning, or otherwise causing fatal harm to the infant.
The term “infanticide” is derived from the Latin words “infans” (meaning “infant”) and “caedere” (meaning “to kill”). Infanticide has historically been regarded as a heinous crime in many societies, often carrying severe legal penalties.
Infanticide is distinct from abortion, which involves the termination of a pregnancy before the fetus reaches a viable stage of development. Infanticide occurs after the child is born.
The motives behind infanticide can vary and may include factors such as unwanted pregnancies, poverty, mental illness, cultural beliefs towards female children or customs, or a perceived inability to care for the child. It is a complex issue influenced by various social, cultural, and psychological factors.
In New South Wales (NSW), there are legal provisions that address the crime of infanticide. The specific charge of infanticide is outlined in Section 22A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
According to the law, a woman who unlawfully kills her own child, being a child under the age of 12 months, while her mind is disturbed as a result of the effects of giving birth or the consequent lactation, is guilty of infanticide. The law recognises that a woman’s mental state following childbirth can be significantly affected, and in certain cases, it may lead to the commission of this offence. One can present the argument that infanticide serves as a partial defence in cases of murder. In situations where a woman is accused of murder but can provide evidence that she experienced a mental impairment due to giving birth to the baby, a lesser charge of infanticide may be considered.
The utilisation of infanticide as a partial defence is more prevalent compared to its prosecution as an independent offence. This is primarily due to the challenging task faced by the prosecution in proving that the accused individual indeed suffered from a mental impairment resulting from childbirth.
The offence of Infanticide is treated as a distinct offence from murder or manslaughter under NSW law. The penalties for infanticide are less severe compared to those for murder. If convicted of infanticide, the court can impose a maximum penalty of imprisonment for up to 25 years.
No, abortion is not considered infanticide in New South Wales. The law distinguishes between abortion and to commit infanticide.
Abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy before the fetus reaches a viable stage of development. In NSW, the legality of abortion is governed by the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019. This legislation allows for abortions to be performed by medical practitioners in specific circumstances and up to certain gestational limits. The Act recognises a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy under certain conditions, such as protecting her physical or mental health.
Infanticide, on the other hand, is the intentional killing of an infant after birth. As mentioned earlier, it is a separate offence from abortion. Infanticide typically refers to the killing of a child under the age of 12 months by their mother, while her mind is disturbed as a result of the effects of giving birth or subsequent lactation. The legal provisions for infanticide are outlined in Section 22A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Infanticide cases in Australia are relatively rare, but they do occur from time to time. It is important to note that the available information on specific cases may be limited or subject to change, as legal proceedings and investigations develop over time.
One notable infanticide case in Australia occurred in 2003, known as the “Cairns baby farm” case. In this case, a woman named Kathleen Folbigg was convicted of killing her four infant children over a 10-year period. She was charged with and found guilty of multiple counts of manslaughter and murder. This case received significant media attention and sparked discussions about postpartum depression, mental health, and the justice system’s approach to infanticide.
While infanticide cases are relatively rare, when they do occur, they often raise complex legal and psychological issues. The legal system takes such cases seriously, and the individuals involved may face severe legal consequences if found guilty of the crime.
If you have been charged with a serious criminal offence and require assistance, you should contact our criminal lawyers in Parramatta.