If you have been charged with any crime the best way to protect yourself is to contact a criminal lawyer as soon as practicable. Mehdi Au LLP has criminal lawyers on staff that can assist you. If you know someone who is suffering from post-partum depression or other complications as a new parent, be sure to reach out and seek appropriate medical assistance.
Homicides are among the most serious offences in the criminal code (1st degree murder, second degree murder and manslaughter). In decades past, women facing an unplanned pregnancy were significantly socially ostracized, barred from marriage, job opportunities and made into social pariahs. The same types of consequences did not so easily attach to their male counterparts. Further infanticide was made into a crime at a time when infant mortality was very high. As a relic of our puritanical past, and the heavy social stigma that historically was attached to unplanned pregnancies, the Criminal Code contained a different crime of “infanticide”, for women who murdered their babies. Infanticide is a relatively uncommon crime in the modern era, with our more relaxed attitudes and access to contraception. On occasion however the charge can still be laid, in appropriate circumstances. The charge remains as an option, partially in recognition of the particularly extreme hormonal and mental health consequences that can result from childbearing.
Criminal Code Definitions
Infanticide is defined at section 233 of the criminal code as follows:
233 A female person commits infanticide when by a wilful act or omission she causes the death of her newly-born child, if at the time of the act or omission she is not fully recovered from the effects of giving birth to the child and by reason thereof or of the effect of lactation consequent on the birth of the child her mind is then disturbed.
A Newly born child is defined is section 2 of the Criminal Code, as a child less than 1 year of age.
Elements Of The Offence
In order for a homicide to qualify as an infanticide rather than murder or manslaughter, there are a number of preconditions:
- The accused must be female,
- The accused must be suffering some mental disturbance resulting from childbirth or lactation (i.e.: post partum depression),
- The victim must be her child,
- The victim must be less than 1 year of age.
If any of those preconditions are not met, manslaughter or murder would be the appropriate charge.
The punishment for infanticide is far lower than the punishment for murder (punishable by life imprisonment). Infanticide is an indictable offence punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.
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