The death or a mother and her unborn baby has raised debate over the nation’s foetal homicide laws and whether they should be changed.
Mother of four, Kirralee Paepaerei was seven months pregnant when she was allegedly stabbed to death at her western Sydney home on Tuesday.
A 38-year-old man, believed to be her partner, has today been charged with her murder. However, he will not be charged over the death of the unborn child.
It has raised serious debate of the legitimacy of the homicide law and whether it should be changed to include the unborn child “” especially given the fact the baby was considered “full-term”.
“By NSW law a baby has to draw breath before it is deemed a person,” said a NSW detective.
In Queensland offenders who kill or intend to kill an unborn baby by assaulting a mother face mandatory life imprisonment “” the same as a murder charge.
But foetal homicide is not recognised in any other state or territory. However, a foetus’ death is included in the national road toll, even if the death is caused by a driver charged with murder.
There has been a number of challenges against the law over the past decade, one in particular that made headlines was of the death of a unborn baby girl called Zoe in NSW. Her mother, who was 36 weeks pregnant, had been hit by a car on Christmas day in 2009 and her baby was killed.
The family fought to have the death of Zoe recognised in court, but the law did not allow the foetus to be viewed as a human being and the driver of the car, who was allegedly drunk, was sent to jail for nine months for negligence.
“Zoe’s Law” met considerable opposition for fear it would mean there would be restrictions placed on current abortion laws.
In 2012, West Australia drafted similar laws to Queensland to see people charged with murder of an unborn child but they have since been placed on a long-standing back burner.
How you can help others who have suffered from trauma?
The murder of a family member is very traumatic. If the investigation results in an arrest, many jurisdictions offer victim advocate services to assist family members throughout the court process. This can be very beneficial in helping protect and prepare the family for each phase of a criminal trial, according to compassionate friends.
Here are some ways you can help:
- Be a good listener. Allow family members to talk about where they are in the process, in their grief, or whatever they feel is necessary to express.
- Be non-judgmental. Anger is normal and the survivors may express this in ways you may not expect.
- Say the child’s name “” parents long to hear that others remember.
- Don’t forget that siblings hurt, too. They are often referred to as “the forgotten mourners” with good reason. Feel free to ask them how they are doing.
- Family members will find their energy levels reduced and their ability to do even simple tasks may be impaired. See what needs to be done, then do it without asking.
- Try to be with them throughout the proceedings. They’ll need a shoulder to lean on””and to cry on.
- Send “thinking of you” cards on important days such as the child’s birthday and death anniversary, and mention the child by name.
For the latest on the mother’s death, click here.