A Melbourne mother who was so shocked to discover she was pregnant that she killed her baby and dumped the girl’s body under a tree has not been jailed.
The 19-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge of infanticide after she admitted to police she had given birth in a bedroom of her father’s house and then hidden the body when the baby died.
She had not known she was pregnant before going into labour in February last year.
After the baby was born, the mother covered the infant’s mouth with her hand for 30 to 60 seconds because she was afraid of waking up her household.
Victorian Supreme Court Judge John Rush said the woman’s impaired mental functioning at the time impacted her ability to think rationally.
He found she suffered a rare but recognised mental disorder called pregnancy denial, and had been extremely traumatised by the labour and subsequent death of her daughter.
He sentenced her to a community corrections order of one year, saying her life would be permanently coloured by the experience.
“The loss of a child is a life sentence in and of itself,” Justice Rush said on Wednesday.
“The shock and trauma you would have experienced upon realising you were giving birth and that your child subsequently died is a pain and anguish that no one should have to experience.”
The baby girl was moving and made a noise after she was born in the early hours of February 26 last year.
A report by consultant neonatologist Andrew Watkins said the mother’s description of the baby at birth is consistent with a baby born in very poor condition.
After the baby died, the mother, then 18, put the little girl’s body in a Cotton On bag and went to sleep.
She later hid the body under a tree.
The woman, who can’t be named, later told her sister about the baby’s death and they reported it to police.
Infanticide is the crime of a mother killing her baby while the balance of her mind is disturbed following childbirth.
The maximum penalty for infanticide is five years in jail.