Crimes of Violence: Pregnant Women

Justice written question – answered on 15th July 2008.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what statutory offences there are of causing a miscarriage through violence against a pregnant woman; and how many prosecutions there have been for such offences in the last 12 months.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Causing a miscarriage is an offence under section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Causing a child to die if the child is capable of being born alive is an offence under section 1 of the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929. Both are subject to the Abortion Act 1967, which makes the medical termination of pregnancy lawful in certain circumstances. Offences under these Acts do not differentiate between miscarriages caused by violence and other miscarriages.

If a miscarriage is caused by violence, it would normally be dealt with as an offence of violence against the mother, such as assault causing actual bodily harm. In this case, the circumstances of the offence are not recorded separately.

The information reported to the Ministry of Justice on court proceedings shows one prosecution for child destruction under section 1 of the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929 and no prosecutions under section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 in 2006, the latest year for which data have been published. Data for 2007 will be available in the autumn of 2008.

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