Three Court of Appeal judges have called for a review of the 'outdated and unsatisfactory' law on infanticide after upholding the conviction of a mother for the murder of her baby.
They raised concerns that vulnerable, mentally ill women are being given mandatory life sentences for killing their babies when they should have been treated more leniently.
The judges had rejected an appeal by 29-year-old Chaha'Oh-Niyol Kai- Whitewind against her conviction for murdering her 12-week old baby Bidziil. She had her case referred for appeal following the recent quashing of murder convictions against the 'cot- death' mothers Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony. But the Court of Appeal ruled that, unlike the other three cases, there was 'ample' evidence that Ms Kai-Whitewind had murdered her baby.
She was convicted in 2003 of suffocating Bidziil when, the prosecution said, she became frustrated with his refusal to breastfeed and depressed at her failure to bond with him.
The trial was told the infant had been under a care order after suffering a broken leg while living with his mother and her boyfriend in Birmingham, and was returned to them just days before his death.
Ms Kai-Whitewind, who changed her name after adopting native American culture, had told a psychiatric nurse she had thought about killing the baby, who was conceived as a result of rape. Blood was found in the boy's nose and mouth, and his mother had delayed calling an ambulance after he stopped breathing.
But she denied having anything to do with his death, claiming it was from natural causes. She refused to give evidence or plead guilty to infanticide or manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Under the 1938 Infanticide Act, a woman who kills her child when it is less than a year old and 'while the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of the fact that she had not fully recovered from the effect of giving birth', should not be found guilty of murder.
Of the 49 women convicted of infanticide between 1989 and 2000, only two were jailed; the rest were given probation, supervision or hospital orders.
But because Ms Kai-Whitewind did not admit her guilt and refused to undergo psychiatric reports, she was convicted of murder and given a life sentence.
Giving their ruling yesterday, the deputy chief justice, Lord Justice Judge, sitting with Mrs Justice Hallett and Mr …