Natasha Sultan killed her 5-week-old daughter Amelia Lily in a “sudden explosion of violence”. Amelia Lily suffered a single blow to the head and later died in hospital.
Sultan, aged 21, will be sentenced on 12 November 2013.
Offence of infanticide
Infanticide Act 1938 s 1 creates the offence of a woman causing the death of her child when her mind was disturbed. It reads:
(1)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.
(2)Where upon the trial of a woman for the murder of her child, being a child under the age of twelve months, the jury are of opinion that she by any wilful act or omission caused its death, but that 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 the jury may, notwithstanding that the circumstances were such that but for the provisions of this Act they might have returned a verdict of murder, return in lieu thereof a verdict of infanticide.
The offence is triable only in the Crown Court and the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. It is now rarely charged, with 1 person receiving a community sentence in 2009, 2 receiving community sentences in 2010 and 0 people being sentenced for it in 2011.
The prosecution said that Sultan had changed her story several times, first claiming that she did not know of any injury to her child, then claiming that she had accidentally dropped the child, and latterly admitting to causing the fractured skull.
Sultan admitted infanticide on the first day of her trial. She was originally charged with murder but the prosecution accepted the plea to infanticide.
Sultan was suffering from post-natal depression at the time of the offence.
BBC News reported: Judge Jeremy Richardson QC told her: “I cannot, and will not, ignore the fact you killed your baby…in a sudden explosion of violence.
“It is an anxious and difficult case in equal measure.
“The facts are clear – you killed your much-loved and wanted child when the balance of your mind was disturbed.”
Sentence – General
This offence is very similar to manslaughter and as we have said before, manslaughter has perhaps the widest range of sentences given; from an absolute discharge to life imprisonment.
The sentences vary wildly according to the individual circumstances, but clearly the mental health element of this offence provides for some mitigation.
Judges are required to balance the fact that a vulnerable life has been taken with the obvious psychiatric difficulties. Sentences for this offence are more likely to focus on helping the defendant as opposed to purely punishing them, as the courts recognise the difficult and unique circumstances in which this offence is committed.
In a case in 1989, the court said that in the previous 10 years there had been 59 cases of infanticide and not one had received a custodial sentence.
Without knowing the facts and mental health records it is difficult to say what type of sentence the court are likely to consider appropriate; some defendants receive hospital orders, whereas others receive community sentences. At the very least, we can say that this is likely to be a non-custodial sentence.
3-year Supervision Order
It has been reported that Sultan received a 3-year Supervision Order.
More to come later.