Tougher penalties introduced for crimes that cause loss of unborn child

Tougher penalties introduced for crimes that cause loss of unborn child

22 November 2021 By Naomi Neilson
loss of unborn child

The NSW government has passed updated sentencing reforms aimed at holding offenders to account if their criminal act causes the loss of an unborn child.

Commencing next year, a new criminal offence will expressly recognise the loss of an unborn child as a unique injury for a pregnant woman and other family members. Attorney-General Mark Speakman said that not only would the bill provide better acknowledgement of the anguish of expectant parents but would provide greater support.

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“It’s been a long and challenging journey to achieve these reforms, and I thank my parliamentary colleagues for working constructively on this bill,” Mr Speakman said. “The reforms deliver higher maximum penalties to reflect the gravity of these crimes without undoing longstanding legal principles or affecting abortion law.”

Amendments to the Crimes Act 1900 includes a stand-alone offence of “causing the loss of a foetus”, which will apply to a wide range of criminal acts and carry a maximum penalty of five and 28 years imprisonment depending on the type of act. The maximum sentence is three years higher than what was previously available.

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A second offence of “causing the loss of a foetus (death of a pregnant woman)” can be charged as a homicide when the pregnant woman is killed and the foetus is list. This offence carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and applies in addition to the maximum penalty for homicide, Mr Speakman confirmed.

Improved support for parents includes victim impact statements, including the name of an unborn child in the formal wording of charges, and claiming funeral costs. When either of the new offences is charged, families may also be eligible for a one-off $3,000 payment to seek counselling and other support services.

Mr Speakman said the new laws do not affect reforms introduced by the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 and are not intended to displace the centuries-old “born alive rule”, which provides that a crime such as homicide can be only committed on a legally recognised person, which is attained when someone takes their first breath.

Tougher penalties introduced for crimes that cause loss of unborn child
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