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RTL Intervene in Compensation Case for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

We have been granted permission to intervene in an important case relating to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Very briefly, the facts of the case are as follows: a first-tier tribunal found that a mother drank ‘recklessly’ during pregnancy. Her child (now in care) was born with severe FAS and is severely disabled. The child is now 7, and the Local Authority is attempting to make a Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) claim to get her money to help with care cost.

In order for an award to be made under the Scheme, the Court has to decide that a crime of violence had, on the balance of probabilities, been committed. The claim was lodged, therefore, under s23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which deals with Poisoning.

Both we, and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) together with an organisation called Birthrights, have been granted permission to intervene through written statements. We may be able to make submissions orally at a later date. BPAS and Birthrights have been trying (helped by an irresponsibly misleading headline in the Daily Mail) to spin this case as a matter of criminalising women who drink alcohol whilst pregnant. This was assisted by pieces by abortion lobby supporters in the Telegraph, the Times (£), the Guardian, and even MumsNet, all trying to paint the case as an assault on the autonomy and integrity of women. Suffice to say, this is complete nonsense, and has been well debunked by Kathy Gyngell, a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies. It behoves us also, however, to set out here the following relevant points in clarification of what this case is, and is not, about:

  • This is not about criminalising women. This case does not affect the criminal law, as it is a CICS case, which is a civil matter. Moreover, a criminal conviction does not have to be secured to award compensation. It cannot and will not criminalise drinking while pregnant, and Birthrights know this, which is why they published the following on their blog in emboldened type:

Any decision relating to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority’s payment of compensation does not have direct legal consequences for the interpretation of Section 23 in the criminal law.

  • This is not about abortion. This case has nothing to do with abortion. It is a narrow case which will apply only to children harmed in the womb who try to make a CICS claim.
  • This is about justice. Regardless of whether or not the harm was intended, this child is disabled as a result of what happened to her in the womb. When a child is shaken and develops brain damage after birth, an award is given under the Scheme. There is no difference here – the life changing consequences are the same.

So, what do we hope to achieve by intervening?

We wanted to ensure that balanced arguments were heard. We sought to intervene only after we heard that BPAS and Birthrights have asked for permission to address the court. They will attempt to persuade the court not to award this child compensation, because they are worried about the ramifications for maternal autonomy if such a precedent were established. We were worried the court would hear unbalanced arguments as it is in the interests of BPAS and Birthrights to prevent any decision from occurring in the courts that would establish a precedent in favour of the unborn child.

As two pro-abortion charities (one of which makes money from abortion) plus the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority were all coming together to prevent this child from receiving compensation, we thought someone ought to speak up for her. Moreover, the position of the unborn child in law is far from clear-cut and we wanted to make sure that the court had all the detail.

Hopefully, cases like this (if properly prosecuted) will bring further to public consciousness the humanity and dignity of children in the womb, and the rights they have to care and protection by their parents, and by society itself.