Battery, Assult, and other offences against the person in English law

Battery (crime)




Non-fatal offences against the person in English law


Offences Against the Person Act 1861: Drinking pregnant woman, Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Mother who drank heavily when pregnant not guilty of crime, court rules
“Child born with lifelong damage after excessive drinking by mother is not entitled to compensation, judges say”
“A mother who inflicted lifelong damage on her child after drinking heavily during her pregnancy did not commit a criminal offence, the court of appeal has ruled.
The unanimous decision sets clear limits on the legal rights of the unborn child and dispels fears that women could become liable to prosecution for their lifestyles during pregnancy.
The claim was brought by a local authority in the north-west of England which now cares for the young girl, now seven, who is suffering from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She was not identified.
The council argued that the girl, known as CP, was entitled to payments from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The authority declined to compensate on the grounds that there had been no crime of violence.
The case revolved around section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which created the offence of poisoning and requires the victim to be “another person”. The three judges – Lord Justice Dyson, Lord Justice Treacy and Lady Justice King – agreed for the purposes of the law the unborn baby was a “unique organism” but not a person.
Treacy explained that the main reason for dismissing the application was that the damage caused to the unborn baby by heavy drinking was caused while the child did not have a separate existence in law.
“The time at which harm, acknowledged in this case to amount to grievous bodily harm, occurred was whilst [the child] was in the womb,” he said in his judgment.
“At that stage the child did not have legal personality so as to constitute ‘any other person’.”
He added: “A mother who is pregnant and who drinks to excess despite knowledge of the potential harmful consequence to the child of doing so is not guilty of a criminal offence under the law if her child is subsequently born damaged as a result.”
The master of the rolls, Lord Justice Dyson, said: “Parliament could have legislated to criminalise the excessive drinking of a pregnant woman but it has not done so … Since the relationship between a pregnant woman and her foetus is an area in which parliament has made a (limited) intervention, I consider that the court should be slow to interpret general criminal legislation as applying to it.”
As many as 80 other claims on behalf of children suffering from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder had been awaiting the outcome of the case.”

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
“Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.[1] Problems may include an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, low intelligence, behavior problems, and problems with hearing or seeing.[1][2] Those affected are more likely to have trouble in school, legal problems, participate in high-risk behaviors, and have trouble with alcohol or other drugs.[3] The most severe form of the condition is known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).[1] Other types include partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD).”

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
“Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), currently considered part of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), was first described in 1973.1 Although much has been learned in 30 years, substantial challenges remain in diagnosing and preventing this disorder. Our goal is to summarize what has recently been reported with respect to fetal alcohol terminology, identification, effects, prevalence, and prevention of exposure. We will emphasize how fetal alcohol exposure is routinely underidentified and what is known about who is at risk. With this knowledge, physicians should be better able to identify at-risk pregnancies and alcohol-affected individuals and address fetal alcohol exposure in the clinical setting.”