An Irish backpacker faces two years in an Australian jail after she was charged with concealing the body of her dead newborn child.
The 25-year-old Irish woman was traveling in the Australian outback when the child died after she had given birth.
Her tragic case surfaced when she was charged with ‘concealing the birth of a child that died before or after birth’ by police in Western Australia.
A Kununurra court heard that the woman had been traveling in the remote Kimberley region with friends and had not realized she was pregnant.
The Irish Times reports that the woman gave birth in May while alone in the town of Halls Creek.
Officers claimed in court that the woman hid the newborn and did not tell her friends what had happened until days later.
The police were informed after her friends took her to a hospital.
The report states that Western Australia’s major crime squad was called in to investigate the death and charged the woman.
The Irish Times reports that concealing the birth of a child carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
Australian lawyer Linda Black, president of the criminal lawyers association, said it was an unusual situation.
She said: “It’s a charge that seems to be fairly rarely used.
“I can’t recall the last time I heard of anyone being charged with this.
“Laws requiring births to be reported regardless of the circumstances are common. It’s a charge that’s certainly not unique to Western Australia.
“Without wanting to trivialize it, we just can’t have people storing dead bodies all over the place without it being brought to the attention of the authorities and dealt with in a proper and formal way, so I think there’s a strong public policy behind it.”
The Irish Times report adds that police in Western Australia are reportedly allowed some discretion in cases of stillbirths.
Black added: “The police need to ask themselves two questions before they charge someone.
“First, is there a reasonable prospect of conviction; and second, is it in the public interest for us to charge them - and that requires them to weigh up a whole degree of factors.”
The case has been referred to another court in Perth, Western Australia’s capital.
The woman will appear there later this year and has been ordered to remain in Perth while the case proceeds.