Irish woman faces two years in Australian jail for not reporting baby's death
A young Irish backpacker facing two years in prison for allegedly concealing the death of her newborn baby in a remote part of the Australian outback should be treated with compassion, according to a stillbirth support agency.
The unnamed 25-year-old is to appear in court in Perth, Australia in October after she appeared at the Kununurra Court in Western Australia at the end of June.
The young woman, who did not enter a plea, was charged with "concealing the birth of a child that died before or after the birth," according to Australian police.
She is reportedly living in the Perth area of Western Australia but has not sought consular assistance with the Irish embassy, a spokesperson told the Irish Independent last night.
The woman is understood to have been travelling with fellow Irish backpackers in the Kimberley region of the country and gave birth in May during a stopover in the remote town of Hall's Creek where it's believed that she stayed in one of the town's two hotels by herself.
Police said she was unaware that she was pregnant and gave birth to a child that was either stillborn or died shortly after birth. She is alleged to have hidden the body of the baby and didn't tell her friends about her ordeal for several days until she appeared unwell and they quizzed her about what was wrong with her.
They phoned police after she allegedly showed them the baby's body.
Officials at both the local hotels refused to discuss the case last night.
However, Mairie Cregan, a social worker and founder of support group Feileacain, said she was shocked and surprised to hear the woman was charged with a criminal offence.
"Usually a case like this occurs because of shock," she said. "Going into 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 to judge what's happened. I just feel desperately sorry for her," Ms Cregan said.
Australian lawyer Linda Black said that while it's unusual to charge a woman in such circumstances, many countries, including Australia, require a birth to be registered even if the child doesn't survive.
"It's a charge that seems to be fairly rarely used," she told ABC News in Australia.
"I can't recall the last time I heard of anyone being charged with this. But it's a charge that's certainly not unique to Western Australia."