Infanticide

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 1964.

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Photo of Mr Leo Abse Mr Leo Abse , Pontypool 12:00 am, 19th November 1964

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many women have been charged with infanticide from 1960 onwards; and if he will review the existing law with a view to taking steps to ensure that no woman killing her child when the balance of her mind is disturbed by the effects of the birth shall be guilty of a criminal offence.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

Statistics of women charged with infanticide are not readily available, but the numbers of women committed for trial for this offence in England and Wales were 17 in 1960, 13 in 1961, 17 in 1962 and 13 in 1963. My right hon. and learned Friend has no plans for legislation on this matter. However, if I my hon. Friend wishes to make any further representations, perhaps he will write to me and I will see that his points are fully considered.

Photo of Mr Leo Abse Mr Leo Abse , Pontypool

In thanking my hon. Friend the Minister of State for her reply, may I draw to her attention that most of these women who are so charged are suffering from puerperal psychosis and that as the law now stands, in complete breach of our general principles, we are suggesting that people have criminal responsibility when, in fact, they are mentally ill? Will my hon. Friend bear in mind when I write to her that it is most unfortunate that these wretched women have to go through the magistrates' courts often twice and then have to wait months before they come to the assize court, and that this is quite mediaeval?

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

Yes, I will take into account all the points of view put forward by my hon. Friend. As I have said, if he wishes to make further representations, we will consider them.