- State Government to introduce foetal homicide laws in WA
- Penalty increase for offences involving harm or death to unborn child
The State Government has announced its plans to strengthen and clarify Western Australia’s foetal homicide laws.
Attorney General Christian Porter said proposed laws would strengthen the penalties applying in cases of violence against pregnant women which resulted in the death of an unborn child.
Mr Porter said it was intended that the laws would create a new offence of causing death or grievous bodily harm to an unborn child through an unlawful assault on its mother. This offence, based on one in operation in Queensland, would carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Under the proposed laws, where the unborn child died following an assault on a pregnant woman, and where the offender intended to cause serious harm to the unborn child, courts would be required to impose life imprisonment in all but exceptional circumstances - the same penalty which applies for murder.
The laws would also ensure dangerous driving offences which caused the death of an unborn child would be dealt with in the District Court and carry maximum imprisonment of 20 years.
Where there was a history of domestic violence against the mother by the offender prior to them harming or causing the death of an unborn child, the offender would face a presumption of imprisonment.
“The Government’s proposed laws reflect our view that any act of violence against a mother-to-be is an especially serious offence,” the Attorney General said.
“Where an offender causes serious injury or death to an unborn child, the law must properly reflect the extreme emotional trauma such a loss can cause to the mother.”
Mr Porter said the proposed legislation would not in any way affect laws relating to abortion.
“The proposed legislation will be drafted to require an unlawful act to be done to the mother before any penalty can apply,” he said.
“This ensures these changes will not affect a mother’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy.”
The Attorney General said fresh consideration of WA’s laws in relation to unborn children had been prompted by recent cases which had resulted in strong advocacy for change.
Mr Porter said he intended to consult further in coming weeks with these stakeholders for change concerning the Government’s reforms.
- Currently under WA law, a child becomes legally capable of being killed when they proceed from their mother in a living state
- Section 290 of the Criminal Code penalises unlawful assaults which result in death or grievous bodily harm to an unborn child only when the pregnant woman is ‘about to be delivered’ of the child
- There are no specific provisions in the Criminal Code or Sentencing Act which require courts to take into account the death of an unborn child when sentencing offenders for assaults or other unlawful acts committed against a pregnant woman
Minister's office - 6552 5600