The Post

Young mum charged after baby dies in bed


A YOUNG Hawke’s Bay woman whose baby son died in her bed has been charged with committing a criminal nuisance by sleeping with him.

Police alleged the 20-year-old failed to discharge a legal duty, ‘‘namely keeping a baby safe from co-sleeping knowing that such an omission would endanger the lives/ life’’ of the baby.

The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.

The alleged incident occurred in Hastings in November last year, when the boy was about 10 weeks old.

The woman appeared in Hastings District Court yesterday and was granted name suppressio­n with consent from police. Her lawyer, Matthew Phelps, entered a plea of not guilty to the charge.

‘‘It’s a relatively unusual charge . . . and an unusual charge for the situation,’’ Phelps said.

Judge Bridget Mackintosh agreed it was an unusual charge and set the matter down for a case review hearing in December. The woman was remanded at large until then.

In 2013, an East Coast couple were convicted on the same charge after the death of their son.

The boy, Elray, aged 10 weeks, was placed in the bed of his drunk mother, Sybil Harrison, 36, and her partner Elray Marsh, 31, in July 2011. Two years later the pair pleaded guilty to charges of endangerin­g life by criminal nuisance.

It was the second SUDI (sudden unexplaine­d death in infancy, previously known as cot death) for the couple in 10 months. In July 2010 their baby girl Kasey died in similar circumstan­ces.

Harrison was sentenced to 12 months’ intensive supervisio­n. Marsh was sentenced to six months’ supervisio­n and 250 hours’ community work.

There have been at least 15 recommenda­tions or comments from coroners since 2008 about the importance of education on the dangers of sleeping with a baby, particular­ly after the parent has been drinking alcohol.

Coroners have made numerous calls to step up awareness campaigns on safe sleeping practices for babies and parents. In 2013, deaths from co-sleeping were termed an epidemic by coroner Wallace Bain, who said 55 to 60 babies had died from co-sleeping in each of the four previous years.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand