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About the Research

Women, Pregnancy and the Criminal Law is based on research findings from Dr Milne’s book, Criminal Justice Responses to Maternal Filicide: Judging the Failed Mother (Emerald Publishing, 2021). The first study of its kind, the research looks at how the criminal law is applied, and criminal justice system works if a woman is suspected of causing the death of her newborn child or late-term foetus.

Dr Milne provides a comprehensive analysis of court transcripts from 15 criminal cases of women heard in England and Wales between 2010 and 2019. These represent almost a complete sample of cases from the period. In each case the woman’s foetus/newborn child died in suspicious circumstances, and the mother of the child was convicted of an offence connected to its death. Cases were assessed to evaluate the nature of the death and the women’s experiences.

Analysis reveals that women suspected of killing their newborn children are some of the most vulnerable in our society and that infanticide is not just a historic issue but one that has modern implications. While women are less likely to commit violent crime, maternal infant homicide is an enduring form of offending that needs to be understood in a wider social context.

This contemporary study makes a novel contribution to the fields of law, criminology and gender studies. It argues that, through its inability to recognise the vulnerable position of accused women and to respond accordingly, the application of law reflects wider social judgments of all pregnant women and mothers who challenge or fail to fulfil ideals of motherhood.

This research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/L503861/) through the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-east England (CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership), the Socio-Legal Studies Association Research Grants Scheme 2019, and Durham Law School.

Criminal Justice Responses to Maternal Filicide

Watch Dr Milne talk about her book

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