Criminalising Neonaticide: Reflections on Law and Practice in England and Wales
This chapter considers the unusual case where a woman is suspected of killing her newborn baby following a secret pregnancy and birth. The research on what we know about the circumstances and incidence of what has been termed ‘neonaticide’ is explored. The complexities of these cases in terms of their circumstances and the vulnerability of women who conceal their pregnancies are highlighted. Following this, the difficulties, from a legal perspective, that arise when seeking to prosecute women for homicide when their babies die following an unassisted concealed birth are considered. What we know about current criminal justice practice in these cases is also explored. Unfortunately, there is limited research on current criminal justice practice in these cases, and little is therefore known about the approach taken by the police, prosecutors and the courts in cases involving suspected homicides of newborns. The need for further research on the criminal justice response is highlighted, and the appropriateness of criminalising women and girls in these cases, particularly given their unique circumstances of vulnerability, is questioned.
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