Thursday 4 December 2014

Foetal alcohol judgment is anti-rational

The Court of Appeal's judgment today in the foetal alcohol syndrome case is anti-rational. SPUC has responded to the judgment in the case of CP v CICA

The judges said that they thought babies who are victims of violence should not be compensated by the state in the way that other victims of violence are. Previously, children affected by FAS have received compensation. In today's judgment in the 'CP' case, the court has upheld cost-cutting changes in the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority practices and prioritised finance above welfare of children and expectant mothers.

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, told the media earlier today:
"This cruel judgment not only leaves disabled children without just recompense, it flies in the face of common knowledge about when life begins and - it is anti-rational.

The judges use complex legal argument to explain why 80 children and babies whose lives are blighted by their mother's extremely heavy drinking in pregnancy will not receive compensation.

There is no need to prosecute any mother in order for the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority to award compensation to the babies who have been injured. Indeed, no-one, so far as we know, has even suggested that this is necessary.

In order to reach its decision the court relied on arcane legal rules which say that although unborn babies are distinct from their mother from the time of conception, they are not in law 'other' people or 'human persons'. This approach is anti-rational: it denies the known facts about human life and how babies develop.

The judges noted that children who die after birth because of injuries inflicted before they are born can be regarded as victims of crime. But the judges said that damage inflicted during pregnancy (such as alcohol poisoning) cannot be regarded as causing harm to the baby after birth because all the damage is done in the womb. According to the judges, the post-natal effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, which can include heart problems, learning difficulties, musculo-skeletal abnormalities and epilepsy, do not count as additional damage caused after birth.

This kind of argument seeks to find a difference where there is no distinction. It has no place in a legal judgment.

English law remains in denial about biology by refusing to recognise the human person in the womb. People start in life as embryos who grow into fetuses, who are called 'babies' when they are born and 'adults' when they are fully grown. Our judges are some of the most intelligent people in society, yet they deny the facts of human biology that children know."
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