What does infanticide mean?

Infanticide is an offence that occurs when a mother kills her child, whilst not fully responsible for her actions. For infanticide to be used as a defence for murder or manslaughter, the child must have been aged under 12 months.

When it comes to the mother’s disturbance of mind, this must be due to to at least one of the following:

  • The mother has not fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child
  • The mother has not fully recovered from the effect of lactation

In recent years, infanticide has been criticised as being outdated and narrow-minded, as the defence cannot be used under any other circumstances other than the above.

What’s the difference between infanticide and murder?

The Infanticide Act 1922 was legislation enacted into the statute book to protect women who were suffering from mental disturbances due to childbirth and/or lactation. Until then, a mother’s deliberate killing of her child was classed as murder, which carried the death penalty in England and Wales at the time.

Murder in England and Wales carries a mandatory life sentence. Although the maximum sentence for infanticide is life imprisonment, in recent years it has become very rare for a woman convicted of infanticide to receive a custodial sentence, except in exceptional circumstances.

The Infanticide Act 1922

Section 1 of the Infanticide Act 1922 states:

“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, if the circumstances were such that but for this Act the offence would have amounted to murder or manslaughter, she shall be guilty of an offence, to wit of infanticide, and may for such an offence be dealt with and punished as if she had been guilty of the offence of manslaughter of the child.”

Can I go to prison for infanticide?

There are no sentencing guidelines for infanticide, and each sentence is passed down on a case-by-case basis. It is possible to be sent to prison for infanticide, but there are a variety of other sentences that may be passed down, including supervision orders and a ban from working with children.

I’ve been accused of infanticide, what should I do?

If you’ve been accused of infanticide, it’s absolutely essential that you seek professional legal advice and counsel, even if you believe yourself to be innocent. Here at DPP Law, we have a dedicated team of murder, manslaugter and infanticide solicitors, who will fight your corner every step of the way.

For a free, confidential discussion about your case, and how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact our team.