Archive for December, 2010

Besmirched by False Allegations – Acquittal is Cold Comfort

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false allegations, sexual abuse, perjury, Ken Atkinson, Durham Region Crown AttorneyImmediately after a charge of threatening death against him was withdrawn by the Crown in March of 2004 — two years after his arrest — Ken Atkinson began demanding the woman who had falsely accused him be charged with perjury.

Mr. Atkinson and his lawyer, Brian Scott, had proven the woman lied on the witness stand when she denied ever having been intimate with Mr. Atkinson. He insists to this day the threatening allegation was also false.

Mr. Atkinson has made numerous overtures to the Durham Region Crown Attorney, asking that the woman be charged. In support of his request, Mr. Atkinson cited testimony the woman gave during a civil proceeding on the matter, in which she admitted having sex with Mr. Atkinson, and lying about it in court because she was embarrassed to reveal the affair.

Crown Attorney John Scott has reviewed the case and decided against laying a perjury charge. He said the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the woman from prosecution.

“Her evidence at the discovery that she did have sex with you, contrary to her statement at the threatening trial that she did not have sex with you, would not be admissible as part of the Crown’s case at a perjury trial,” Mr. Scott said.

That fact notwithstanding, there’s no real public interest in the Crown pursuing the matter, Mr. Scott wrote in a letter to Mr. Atkinson in September of 2009.

Crown Attorney John Scott has reviewed the case and decided against laying a perjury charge. He said the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the woman from prosecution.

The response is galling to Mr. Atkinson. While he was arrested, incarcerated and put on trial for a crime he did not commit, the woman who lied in an attempt to have him convicted is not being held accountable, he said.

“I think there certainly should be a public interest in it,” he said. “The fact she could get away with that should be very disturbing to anyone in the justice system. I think it should be very disturbing to anyone in the public.

“It should be intolerable.”

S.R., who was acquitted of several sex assault charges after a Durham judge ruled his accusers were not telling the truth, forcefully declared his innocence from the day he was arrested until he was cleared in court.

“The lies came out, but it took four years to get there,” he said. “Somebody has to be held responsible for what happened to me.”

He could sue his accusers, or the police, but that takes a lot of money. And the police have a viable defence at the ready: when accusations of serious sexual assault were brought to their attention, they simply did their job in making the arrest.

“I don’t want to take my money and hand it to a lawyer,” S.R. said. “I’m just getting back on my feet.”

Ray Collingham is hoping to sue. His defence lawyer, Graham Clark, has assembled a list of what he says were breaches of Mr. Collingham’s Charter rights following his arrest.

“I almost wept when I saw the video of Ray’s interview (with detectives),” Mr. Clark said. “The entire tenor of the interrogation was that he would be convicted.”

Of course, Mr. Collingham never would have been arrested had his former gymnastics student not made accusations of sexual assault. Perhaps surprisingly though, Mr. Collingham doesn’t harbour bad feelings toward the boy, who is now 19; he feels the boy was pressed to make false allegations by his mother, with whom Mr. Collingham clashed prior to the accusations coming to light.

“I understand he was put into this situation he didn’t want to be in and couldn’t get out of it,” Mr. Collingham said.

But he does feel anger toward the boy’s mother. Evidence at trial suggested she had manipulated e-mails between Mr. Collingham and her son to fabricate sexual overtones that Mr. Collingham testified weren’t there.

“Nothing happened to her at all,” he said.

Suing the police for a wrongful arrest is a lengthy, uphill battle, according to Maurice Kondell. The Whitby man was rising through the ranks of the Wendy’s restaurant chain — he had become the first African Canadian franchise owner — when he was arrested on allegations of sexual assault made by young female workers at his Oshawa store.

The charges against Mr. Kondell and another man were tossed out in 2006 when it was revealed that the accusers were conspiring to launch a lawsuit against the restaurant chain, throwing their credibility into doubt. The judge apologized to the accused men before pronouncing them free to go.

Mr. Kondell filed a $5-million lawsuit against Durham police in early 2007. The case remains unresolved.

“I feel like my life is on hold,” Mr. Kondell said in a recent interview.

Despite the cost involved and the length of the civil process, Mr. Kondell is sticking with his claim. And he advises others who feel they’ve been prosecuted on flimsy allegations to do the same.

“The advice I would give would be to seek recourse — get a lawyer and file a claim,” he said.

“If we sit there silent, it will continue.”

Mr. Clark, who represented Mr. Collingham at trial, said there currently exists no mechanism, short of a lawsuit, for those who are prosecuted on false allegations.

“There is no recourse,” he said. “And acquittal is cold comfort in these circumstances.

“I believe there are systemic problems that perpetuate injustices that are hard to address,” Mr. Clark said. “When shoddy investigations occur, bad things happen and it’s hard to correct them.

“It’s impossible.”



Husband faces jail for reading wife’s email

Husband, wife, email, snooping, privacy, jail, email account, Gmail, divorce, affair, Legal experts, Leon Walker

Man faces prison for reading wife's email.

Prosecutors, relying on a Michigan statute typically used to prosecute crimes such as identity theft or stealing trade secrets, have charged Leon Walker, 33, with a felony after he logged on to a laptop in the home he shared with his wife Clara Walker.

Using her password, he accessed her Gmail account and learned she was having an affair. He is now facing trial.

His wife filed for divorce after the incident.

Legal experts said it was the first time the statute had been used in a domestic case and it might be hard to prove.

“It’s going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here,” lawyer and electronic privacy expert Frederick Lane said.

“The fact the two still were living together and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer may help him. I would guess there is enough grey area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy.”

About 45 per cent of divorce cases involve email snooping.

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Feuding parents use My School evidence to decide which schools kids should attend

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My School website, Family Court, Change of School, Change of Location, Family Court, DivorceCOUPLES locked in bitter legal disputes are using data from the My School website to argue over the school their children should attend.

Family Court judges and federal magistrates are increasingly being asked to consider data from the website, which lists schools’ literacy and numeracy scores, when deciding where children of broken relationships should be educated.

In one case, a NSW man wanted his children moved from their public school in Newcastle to a Catholic one on the state’s central coast, where he was living with his new partner. The man argued his children would be better off at the new school, whose students had achieved higher results on its NAPLAN tests.

Family lawyer Matthew Shepherd said the courts were eager to accept the data into evidence and had been giving it some weight in their deliberations.

“In cases like this, the court needs to decide what’s in the best interest of the child, and there’s no presumption in favour of either parent,” Mr Shepherd said.

“Parents are looking for anything that can give them a strategic advantage in getting the court to rule in their favour. Statistical evidence like this can be used to do that.”

Family lawyer Matthew Shepherd said the courts were eager to accept the data into evidence and had been giving it some weight in their deliberations.

However, courts so far have been reluctant to embrace NAPLAN results as a justification for moving children. For instance, in the case of the NSW man, federal magistrate Kevin Lapthorn “respected” the father’s perspective, but “found no evidence to suggest the children were not doing well in their current school”.

In another case, magistrate Judith Walker ruled in favour of a Sydney mother who submitted NAPLAN results, but said the main reason for her decision was that the child should attend a school that was “reasonably convenient to where she lives”.

When the My School website was launched in January, Prime Minsiter Julia Gillard said it would give parents new information when choosing schools for their children.

In another case, magistrate Judith Walker ruled in favour of a Sydney mother but only because it was  “reasonably convenient to where she lives”.

“My School is giving parents more information than they’ve ever had before,” said Ms Gillard, who was then education minister.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett declined to comment yesterday.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said he was disturbed by the legal trend, which he described as an unfortunate consequence of the website. “When a government attaches so much value to something like NAPLAN, it’s only reasonable that parents would attach a similar amount of value to it,” he said.

“NAPLAN is a one-time snapshot of children’s results, which at most provide a useful tool to teachers. I’ll leave the courts to decide how to judge it but if they asked our opinion it would be exactly that.”

Mr Shepherd said that only a fraction of schooling disputes reached the courts, and it was likely the same discussion was occurring privately in separated families across the country.

Mother addicted to computer games strangles child: police

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South Korean Mother, internet game-playing, Mother killed child, MurderA South Korean mother has been arrested for allegedly killing her three-year-old son while she was tired from internet game-playing, police said.

The death is the latest of several cases related to computer game addiction in one of the world’s most wired societies.

Kim, 27, played online games for about 10 hours a day, police said, adding her neighbours described her house as “like a trash site” where her two children were left crying for hours.

Police in the midwestern city of Cheonan said Kim, who also has a one-year-old son, beat the three-year-old and strangled him after he disturbed her by urinating on the floor and crying.

“She said she was so mad at him because she was about to take some rest after playing online games for four hours in the morning,” a city police spokesman said, describing the woman as addicted to game-playing.

Kim left the boy’s body in the house for three days and her in-laws reported the death to police.

She mostly played online card games and those involving the raising of virtual pets, the spokesman said, adding she had no history of mental disorder.

She beat the three-year-old and strangled him after he disturbed her by urinating on the floor and crying.

The government estimates the number of web addicts at about two million in a nation of about 50 million. From next year, it will offer free software to people at risk, to limit the time they spend on the web.

Last month, a 15-year-old boy committed suicide after killing his mother for scolding him over excessive playing of computer games.

In May, a 41-year-old man was sentenced to two years in jail after he and his wife left their baby daughter to die of malnutrition while raising a “virtual child” on the internet.

In February, a 32-year-old man died after reportedly playing games for five days with few breaks.

European court bolsters fathers’ rights

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European Court of Human Rights, Nigerian father, fathers rightsThe European Court of Human Rights granted a Nigerian man access to his children on Tuesday, overturning a series of German court rulings and potentially strengthening unmarried fathers’ rights.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, was ruling on a case in which successive German courts had denied the man the right to see his twin daughters, who were born after the man had a relationship with a married German woman.

It found that the decisions by the courts had breached the man’s rights. Germany must now pay the man €5,000 for damages and a further €4,000 in legal costs. The ruling also establishes a precedent that unmarried fathers in Germany have a right to see their children even after a relationship breaks down.

While the father had not established a relationship with the girls, he had nevertheless shown a “serious interest” in them, the court decided.

The man, who had been living in the Baden-Württemberg city of Achern, took his case all the way through the German legal system to the Constitutional Court – the highest in the country – and was denied access to the children at each stage.

The Constitutional Court ruled in August that a law denying unwed fathers custody rights to their children without the mother’s permission is unconstitutional, which opened the way for automatic joint custody.

The daughters, now aged five, live with their mother and her husband, who is the legal father of the children. The couple, who have three other children together, have denied access to the biological father.

German courts had ruled that the biological father had accepted no responsibility for the twins and therefore had developed no “social-familial relationship” with them.

However, the Strasbourg court decided that the man had “shown a serious interest in the children” and expressed the wish to build a familial relationship with them. This had ultimately been blocked by the mother and legal father, the court found.

The Nigerian father’s application for asylum was denied in 2006. In 2008 he moved to Spain.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland are generally considered to be conservative when it comes to granting unmarried fathers custody or access to their children after separation. However, the government is presently reviewing the laws on the issue.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland are generally considered to be conservative when it comes to granting unmarried fathers custody or access to their children after separation.

The Constitutional Court ruled in August that a law denying unwed fathers custody rights to their children without the mother’s permission is unconstitutional, which opened the way for automatic joint custody.

Mum loses appeal over gassing murder

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Murder, mother murdered children, mother gassed children, Revenge, AppealA woman who gassed her children to death in the family car has lost an appeal against her conviction for murder.

The 43-year-old woman, who cannot be identified, was found guilty after a trial in the Supreme Court in Brisbane earlier this year of murdering her six-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter at their home at Sandstone Point, near Bribie Island.

She was also found guilty of the attempted murder of her 16-year-old son, and was sentenced to life in jail.

During the trial, the Brisbane court was told the mother decided to kill herself and the children as an act of revenge towards her ex-husband.

She had been angry, the court was told, after being issued with a Family Court order stating they would spend Christmas Day with their dad.

The mother gave the children crushed sleeping tablets before putting them in the back seat of the car, attaching a garden hose to the exhaust, and switching on the ignition.

During the trial, the Brisbane court was told the mother decided to kill herself and the children as an act of revenge towards her ex-husband.

The bodies of the children, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, were found on November 22, 2002.

The woman took her case to the Court of Appeal in Brisbane in November, arguing her conviction was unsound because she was suffering from diminished responsibility at the time.

Her lawyer, Michael Byrne QC, also argued that information given to the jury about how one of the psychiatrists came to be involved in the case could have been prejudicial.

He said the correct verdict should have been one of manslaughter, which should carry with it a sentence of between eight and 12 years’ jail.

However the crown argued the evidence about the woman’s state of mind at the time supported a conviction for murder.

In a written judgment handed down on Thursday, the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal.

In his reasons Justice Hugh Fraser said the evidence about the psychiatrist could not have contributed to a miscarriage of justice.

Justice Fraser also found the verdict was sound because the woman had not proved she was unable to control her actions.

Christine Flatley

Paternity testing – Science finally exposing the Original Sin

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Paternity testing, DNA testing, Paternity, Identigene, Maury Povich, GeneticsAfter two decades, Sean Reid of Surrey, British Columbia, discovered that he had a son. Fred Turley of Des Plaines, Ill., learned he didn’t have a daughter. And Wendy Lieb of Lewis Center, Ohio, made certain she wasn’t going to be a grandmother quite yet.

In all three situations, crucial genetic information altered the lives of the people involved. And in each case, it came not from a doctor or other medical source, but from a $29.99 kit on a drugstore shelf.

Reid, Turley and Lieb are among more than 800 customers who responded to the first wave of marketing for do-it-yourself DNA paternity tests sold as Identigene by Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City.

Sales in three western states — Washington, Oregon and California — were so brisk last fall that Rite Aid Corp. expanded the product this week to some 4,300 stores in 30 states across the country.

“The running joke is that we’re the Maury Povich family,” said Reid, 37, who confirmed years of speculation about a former girlfriend’s son with a kit purchased at a Bellingham, Wash., store. “But why not do it privately? We did this as discreetly, as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.”

For users like Reid, the tests provide easier answers to one of life’s crucial questions — Who’s your daddy? — said Douglas Fogg, chief operating officer of Identigene.

“Everyone is purchasing the tests because they’re curious,” said Fogg, who expects to sell at least 52,000 tests this year. “They’re looking to establish questions about their own child or their own paternity.”

But for genetics experts, drugstore marketing of DNA testing raises questions of accuracy and ethics.

“From our perspective, direct-to-consumer genetic tests raise all the same issues for lax government oversight, potentially misleading or false advertising and the potential for making profound medical decisions on the basis of poorly interpreted or understood results,” said Rick Borchelt, a spokesman for the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.

At the very least, the kits have the potential to complicate the lives of the people who use them, legal experts cautioned.

“We all need to take a step back and realize that this is different than many tests that you take,” said R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “This is a life-changing moment.”

DNA tests join other diagnostic tools

The paternity kits have taken their place on store shelves next to other diagnostic tests that don’t rely on DNA, including those for pregnancy, HIV and blood sugar, said Michael S. Watson, executive director of the American College of Medical Genetics.

Unlike genetic tests for health conditions, tests that use DNA to determine paternity are fairly simple to provide and fairly easy to interpret, said Watson. They’re subject to limited oversight, however, with no review required by the Food and Drug Administration and no certification required under the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, or CLIA.

The Identigene kit includes swabs for collecting cell samples from the inside of the cheeks of the child and the alleged father. Collection of the mother’s cells is optional, but strongly recommended to strengthen the results. The swabs are packaged and mailed to the Sorenson laboratory in Salt Lake City where they’re analyzed.

The Sorenson lab is accredited by the AABB, the agency formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks.

Results are reported online, by phone or by mail in three to five business days. They come back as a probability figure that verifies paternity with 98 percent to 99 percent accuracy, Watson said.

Total cost is about $150, including the price of the kit and a $119 laboratory processing fee. For another $200, users can purchase validated tests that meet legal requirements for determining paternity, Fogg said.

Court use questionable

But Susan Crockin, a lawyer who specializes in reproductive technology, said consumers shouldn’t count on the tests standing up in court.

“The jury’s still very much out on these tests in terms of reliability and establishing a chain of custody,” said Crockin, a consultant for the Johns Hopkins public policy center.

Most of the users who have been buying the kits — which have gone on sale for as low as $17.99 — don’t plan to use the results to resolve legal issues, Fogg acknowledged. Instead, most are looking to answer social questions. And that’s where the complexity comes in.

Because the cell samples are taken in private, there’s the potential for fraud and deception, noted Charo, the ethics expert.

“I can imagine rather peculiar circumstances in which somebody has a swab taken without their knowledge,” she said. “It raises questions about informed consent.”

Even when people do consent, the results can be unsettling. Watson estimates that between 5 percent and 10 percent of genetic tests he’s conducted show a child is not related to the presumed father.

“It could break up families,” Watson said. “Some will be broken because that was the goal. Others will be broken up and that wasn’t the goal.”

But people who’ve used the at-home tests swear by the ease, the accuracy — and the results.

After 20 years, a mystery solved

For Reid, the paternity test opened the door to a new extended family. He’d always wondered whether the baby born to a former girlfriend was his, even though she insisted the child was fathered by another man. When the girlfriend contacted Reid on Facebook last summer, the pictures she sent of her oldest son raised the question anew.

“My wife, said ‘Oh my, that’s you,’” said Reid, a nurse.

Internet research pointed Reid to the Identigene test, which was cheaper and more convenient than other options. With cooperation from his former girlfriend and her son, they all took the tests, with results that altered everyone’s lives.

“Our newest son has a family he never knew he had including grandparents, aunts, and three younger brothers who are all very excited to meet him,” Reid said.

For Fred Turley, 55, the DNA test confirmed what his companion had told him: the 4-year-old girl he helped care for was not his. The news was disappointing, but clear, he said.

“The bottom line is, I don’t have to live with the uncertainty about her being my daughter and wind up in a fight just to find out,” Turley said. “This won’t change how I feel about the girl. It will just remove what had become a major concern.”

For Wendy Lieb, 41, the DNA test restored her 20-year-old son’s future. He’d already quit college, taken a job and assumed the responsibilities of pending parenthood after a girl he had sex with at a party claimed she was pregnant with his child.

‘He just didn’t look like my son at all.’

Lieb said she was proud of her son’s response, but perplexed after the baby, a boy, was born.

“He just didn’t look like my son at all,” Lieb said. “And we have fairly strong genes.”

A trip to the drugstore and 10 days later, the answer was clear: her son was not the father.

“I thought it would have required thousands of dollars and a trip to the doctor,” she said.

Lieb is relieved for her own child, of course, but also for everyone involved. As difficult as the situation has been, she said, it will be easier for them to adjust now, rather than years later.  The test may raise ethical questions, she said, but it also provides the peace of mind that comes with answers.

“I think it’s a lot more ethical for you to find out the truth,” she said.

By JoNel Aleccia

Female PE teacher jailed for sex with boys

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A female physical education teacher broke down in tears when a District Court judge sentenced her to more than two years in prison for having sex with two teenage boys in her care.

The 25-year-old woman from NSW, whose name has been suppressed, held her head in her hands while Judge Phillip Eaton recounted her indecent dealings with two boys, aged 15 and 16.

The woman faced nine charges relating to sexual acts that happened between December 2009 and January 2010.

She previously pleaded guilty to all charges.

The District Court heard the woman sent text messages to the boys, as well as nude and provocative pictures.  She invited them on separate occasions to her home, drank alcohol with them, and had sex with them in her bedroom.

Judge Eaton noted that the woman had a troubled past, including a history of alcohol and drug abuse.  She was in a violent relationship in NSW when she got the job as a physical education teacher at a high school in the Pilbara region.

It was also noted that the woman was a popular teacher who had won awards for her teaching excellence.

Her defence lawyer had made the submission that the woman was upset about having to relocate to Newman and had begun drinking more as a result of the impending move, which led her to commit the crimes.

Judge Eaton described the woman’s action as "self-destructive" and said it was "a pity" that her conviction meant she would never teach in an Australian school again.

The woman was sentenced to two years and four months in prison, but will be eligible for parole after serving 14 months.

Why depression is no joke when it comes to Aussie men’s health

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Depression, SANE Australia, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Barbara Hocking, Silent Epidemic, Karen Bishop, Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, Greg JohnsonDEPRESSION cuts more years off the lives of Australian men than liver disease and colon cancer.

The findings come as experts continue calls for males to ditch their “blokey” attitude towards mental health issues.

SANE Australia executive director Barbara Hocking said depression was a silent epidemic among many men who still believed discussing the difficult topic was a sign of weakness.

“There’s a general understanding that women experience it (depression); there’s much less awareness that men do,” she said.

“Part of that . . . is that men are much less likely to seek help for depression; there needs to be a lot more work in changing blokey attitudes.

“The important thing to understand with this silent epidemic is that getting treatment does help and the risk people run by not seeking help is enormous.”

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report looked at the chronic diseases that caused people to die before the age of 75. It calculates how many years of potential life these people lost.

Coronary heart disease topped the list for men, then lung cancer and depression. For women, breast cancer, lung cancer and coronary heart were deemed to be the leading causes of potential years of life lost because of chronic disease.

Depression was in eighth place.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare senior data analyst Karen Bishop said figures on depression included people who had died as a result of suicide and it is the first time such information on chronic diseases has been compiled.

The report found chronic disease killed more than 25,000 Australians during 2007 and that three out of five of these deaths were potentially avoidable.

Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance chairman Greg Johnson said the toll was especially high among disadvantaged Australians and called on the Government to reverse this toll.

For support and information about depression contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANE helpline on 1800 187 263.

By Callie Watson

Baby safe haven laws – Victoria moves to protect newborns

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baby safe haven, abandoned babies, murdered babies, new born, mothers killing children, Keli Lane, Tegan LaneVICTORIA is leading the push to have ”baby safe haven” laws introduced in Australia – a move that supporters say would prevent another tragedy like the death of two-day-old Tegan Lane, whose mother, former water polo champion Keli Lane, was convicted of her murder last week.

Such laws – in place in the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany and many other European countries – are also aimed at preventing abandoned babies from dying from exposure.

About 10 abandoned babies are found in Australia each year, and most survive, but authorities fear many more go undiscovered. It is also unknown how many women conceal their pregnancies, kill their newborns and then hide the bodies.

Baby safe haven laws allow newborns to be anonymously abandoned by their mothers at hospitals, or police and fire stations, without fear of criminal prosecution.

Victorian Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge has told the The Sunday Age the government is investigating the viability of safe haven laws as part of a broader investigation into the provision of services for young women who are in denial about being pregnant or are deliberately concealing their pregnancies – a group who are particularly at risk of killing their newborns.

Ms Wooldridge said the government intended to pursue the issue at a national level with the Commonwealth and other states and territories. It is understood she hopes to raise the issue at the next COAG meeting in February.

Ms Wooldridge said ”in cases where a pregnancy and birth is deliberately concealed, a different approach is required to ensure the safety and well-being of a child”.

In the case of Keli Lane, the sports star had adopted out two other babies after concealing those pregnancies. Her daughter Tegan, however, has not been seen since she left hospital with her mother in 1996.

Baby safe haven law campaigner Tasmanian Labor senator Helen Polley described the Victorian government’s move as ”a wonderful Christmas present”.

She said if such a law had been in place in NSW 14 years ago, Lane would have had the option of walking out of hospital, no questions asked, leaving Tegan in safe hands.

”She’d be alive this Christmas. That little baby would have gone to a loving home,” she said.

Since calling for the law in a speech to the Senate in 2008, Senator Polley has attracted thousands of signatures to a petition on a Facebook page dedicated to the issue. The site has more than 5000 members.

AMA president Dr Andrew Pesce has previously backed the senator’s call. He said the Victorian move ”may well help some desperate women out of desperate situations, for the benefit of them and their babies”.

Ms Wooldridge said any move towards introducing the law ”would need to be considered in conjunction with better education and information to assist health, welfare and educational professionals to identify women who may be vulnerable to concealing or denying the existence of a pregnancy”.

Senator Polley said the law would need to be implemented with safeguards – such as a limit on the age at which a child can be abandoned without charge, and the possibility for parent-child reunions.

Professor Chris Goddard, director of Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia at Monash University, said: ”If such a move saves one life, it’s worth doing. And it’s bound to save more than one life because when we do the research, we find the problem is so much larger than we imagine.”

A French study last week showed the murder of newborns by their mothers was five times larger than official estimates. It follows a spate of newborn murder cases in France: in July, Dominique Cottrez, 46, admitted that since 1988 she had suffocated eight infants; last March, a French woman was sentenced to life in jail after police found the corpses of six infants; and last year another woman was convicted of murdering three babies.

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