The death of a child is always tragic. When it is a death inflicted by the child’s parent(s), it is all the more so. As society moves on we are better at dealing with men and women who kill their children. There is always a desire to look for a ‘reason’, when actually the search for meaning is often a futile one.
One development in the strict law of murder came in 1938 with the admirably brief Infanticide Act. This reduces what would otherwise be murder to the lesser offence of infanticide in certain circumstances. The language is old-fashioned, but the meaning clear – “Where a woman by any wilful act or omission causes the death of her child being a child under the age of twelve months, but at the time of the act or omission the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child, then, notwithstanding that the circumstances were such that but for this Act the offence would have amounted to murder, she shall be guilty of felony, to wit of infanticide, and may for such offence be dealt with and punished as if she had been guilty of the offence of manslaughter of the child.”
The effect is to remove the mandatory life sentence for murder, and leave the sentence at large. Whilst a life sentence can be imposed, in practice this never happens.
Facts and Sentence
Ms Amantova came to the UK from Latvia in 2008 to work. She lost her job and ended up in “the company of organised criminals in Norfolk and worked as a prostitute“. By 2012 she was pregnant and living rough in Tooting “living off berries and bread left out for the birds“.
She was offered help but “Previously diagnosed with a schizophrenia-type mental illness, her condition was said to have been exacerbated by childbirth, and she refused help from police to find a suitable place to live“.
Against that backdrop, she gave birth in August 2012. The facts of exactly what happened at that point are unclear, but Ms Amantova buried the child in the ground, where it was later to be dug up and partly eaten by a fox. Although this could probably not have been proved but for her admission, the child was alive when she buried it.
The Judge imposed a Hospital Order saying ““the court must always mark the serious fact a life has been taken”, a hospital order was appropriate and the defendant would probably need lifelong treatment and care.”
This is a tragic and horrible case, and it seems that the Judge struck the right balance between treatment for Ms Amantova, whilst marking the fact that a child died as result of her actions.