Article Category - Criminal Law and Traffic Offences By Shanaya Stapleton 07 December 2021

New South Wales has proposed longer prison terms for offenders who cause loss of pregnancy. Two new offences will be created under the law to better recognize the loss suffered by families; if the bill passes through parliament.  

The proposed legislation aims to ensure the criminal justice process recognizes the loss of families such as Brodie Donegan and the family of Katherine Gordon. Brodie Donegan's daughter Zoe was stillborn after Brodie was run over by a drugged driver in 2009. The driver was sentenced to a minimum of 9 months prison and Zoe's death was not reflected in the sentence. In 2018, Katherine Gordon was fatally injured at 38 weeks pregnant with twins when she was hit by an unlicensed driver who was speeding.

The new offences, which would be created under the Crimes Act 1900 if the legislation passes are:

  • The 'Causing the loss of a foetus'  offence will apply to a wide range of criminal acts and carry a maximum penalty of 5 to 28 years imprisonment depending on the type of act committed. The combined maximum sentence for this offence and the existing criminal offence will be 3 years higher than that currently available under the existing law.
  • The offence of 'Causing loss of a foetus (death of a pregnant woman)' will be charged with a homicide offence where the foetus is lost and the pregnant woman is killed due to a third party criminal act. This offence will carry a maximum of 3 years imprisonment in addition to the penalty for the homicide offence.

The offences can be charged where the foetus was at least 20 weeks or 400grams weight.

The proposed legislation would also recognise the loss of an unborn child of any age by allowing the name of the unborn child to be included on the criminal charge sheet, allowing the immediate family members of the pregnant woman to make a victim impact statement in the criminal proceedings, and the family members could claim funeral costs following a motor accident. Family members could also claim a one off $3000 bereavement payment when an offender was charged with the new offences.

The criminalization of the death of unborn children following a crime against the mother has been debated by parliament for more than a decade and the new proposal hopes to be passed by parliament to give more recognition for the loss of the pregnancy.

Kenny Spring is humanizing legal services, and are here to help you, your family, or your business, on (02) 6331 2911. 

Shanaya Stapleton | Solicitor