Thursday 25 December 2014

Irish woman facing up to two years in jail for concealing death of her baby in Australia

Published 08/08/2014 | 07:50

AN Irish woman has been charged with hiding the body of her newborn baby while travelling in Australia.

The 25-year-old was charged with “concealing the birth of a child that died before or after the birth”, police in Western Australia confirmed.

The country’s law requires that all births be reported, even if the infant does not survive, or passes away from natural causes.

Police say the young woman had been travelling in the Kimberley region of the Western Australia with friends.

She did not realise she was pregnant, police say.

It’s been reported she was alone in the town of Halls Creek when she gave birth.

The case came to light three months later after it came before a court.

It will be alleged that the woman hid the body of the newborn baby and kept the news to herself.

Several days after giving birth, she told friends.

She was then taken to hospital and staff informed the police.

WA’s Major Crime Squad were then called in to investigate the baby’s death.

The woman was subsequently charged with concealing the birth.

She appeared before a district court last month.

The case was referred to a higher court in Perth and she is due to appear there later this year.

If found guilty, she could face two years in jail.

The woman must remain in Perth while the case is ongoing.

WA Criminal Lawyers Association president Linda Black told ABC News that the charge the woman is facing is “rarely used”.

"I can't recall the last time I heard of anyone being charged with this."

"It's a charge that's certainly not unique to Western Australia," she said.

"Without wanting to trivialise it, we just can't have people storing dead bodies all over the place without it being brought to the attention of the authorities and dealt with in a proper and formal way, so I think there's a strong public policy behind it."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is aware of reports about the case.

However it is understood no request for consular assistance has been made by the woman in Australia or any family member in Ireland.

Around 360 stillbirths are registered in Ireland every year, about one in every 200 births.

Mairie Cregan, of support group Féileacáin, said she was shocked and surprised to hear the woman was charged by police.

“Usually a case like this occurs because of shock,” she said.

“Anybody who has given birth to a live baby will tell you it’s a shocking experience, it’s a full on experience.

“Going in to labour and giving birth to a baby who has died is an incredibly traumatic, upsetting and shocking experience

“I don’t think it’s for any of us can judge what’s happened. I just feel desperately sorry for her.

“What’s being charged going to achieve?”

Mr Cregan, a social worker, founded the charity with six other bereaved parents after her daughter died in 2006.

“This is rare and I’ve never heard of anyone being charged with concealing a body,” she continued.

“She should have been treated with gentleness and care and there should be anonymity around it.

“We just don’t know why so many children are stillborn every year but parent need care, attention, sympathy and empathy, not just for a few months but for some time.

“She is going to need an awful lot of care and understanding and I hope she gets it.”

Anyone affected by the story can get support from Féileacáin on 085 249 6464.

Irish Independent

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