Court rejects compensation claim from disabled child whose mother drank heavily during pregnancy

The Court of Appeal today has ruled against a girl who was born disabled because of her mother drinking during pregnancy, ruling that she was only an “organism” in the womb.

The 17-page judgment in the case of “CP” v Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority was handed down by Lord Justices Dyson and Treacey and Lady Justice King at the Royal Courts of Justice.

CP was diagnosed with severe foetal alcohol spectrum disorder at birth, following “grossly excessive” drinking during pregnancy.

However, judges ruled that she was not a legal person in the womb.

Pro-life Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said: “The pro-abortion movement did their best to prejudice this judgment. Their false spin labelled this case as being about criminalising drinking during pregnancy. In fact, it was nothing of the kind. It is a civil case about whether a child should be offered compensation after excessive drinking during pregnancy rendered her disabled for life. The law is hopelessly unclear on the status of the unborn child, and this judgment makes it even more incoherent. The only loser in this case is the child who has been denied compensation to help with her care costs. I find no cause for rejoicing in that.”

The girl, now aged seven, is very small for her age and has numerous medical complications.

In order for the claim to succeed, the court had to agree that an unborn child could be a victim of the crime of poisoning.

Under section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, which created the offence of poisoning, it must be proven that the victim is “another person”. In dismissing the appeal, the judges agreed that a crime could not have been committed as a foetus is “not a ‘person’”; rather it is a sui generis organism.

Prof Jack Scarisbrick, chairman of the charity Life, said: “It seems that the Court of Appeal has based its judgment in this case on the lack of ‘independence’ of the unborn child (of course, referred to here as ‘foetus’ – just to make it seem less human).

“But this is absurd; that is to say, it leads to absurd conclusions.

“Yes, the unborn child is totally dependent on another human being, his mother. The newly born child is equally dependent on others (in most cases mainly the mother). Indeed, all children are completely dependent on others for several more years.

“If dependence means that the dependant is unprotected by the law, the person(s) upon whom newly born children – indeed children up to the age of, say six or seven – depend can do what they like to those in their care. They can abuse, beat, starve, etc – and the Court of Appeal will acquit them on the ground that the victims were not yet independent.

“This clearly absurd. There cannot be one law for dependent unborn children and another for dependent born ones.

“The plain fact is that dependence imposes duties on the person depended upon regardless of the latter’s age, not rights over the dependant, not dominance, not freedom to do what one likes to that dependant. Quite the contrary.

“One must hope that the Supreme Court will overturn this perverse decision.”