Mothers Who Kill: The Forensic Use and Judicial Reception of Evidence of Postnatal Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders in Australian Filicide Cases

45 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2014 Last revised: 29 Jan 2014

Lorana Bartels

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice

Patricia L. Easteal

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

This article examines Australian legal responses to filicide in circumstances where mothers have killed their young children. We consider the potential legal defences that may be raised where postnatal depression (‘PND’) and other psychiatric disorders are present in cases of filicide: insanity/mental impairment, diminished responsibility/substantial impairment by abnormality of mind, and infanticide. We then examine 28 cases of filicide, including both cases where PND evidence was adduced, and cases where no PND evidence was adduced but other mental health issues were considered. We look at the forensic use of and judicial responses to PND and other evidence of mental illness: how do medical practitioners and judicial officers present impairment of the defendant’s mental capacity? We also speculate on differences in sentencing outcomes and consider the policy and research implications of our findings.

Keywords: filicide, mothers, Australia, post-natal depression, mental illness

Suggested Citation

Bartels, Lorana and Easteal, Patricia L., Mothers Who Kill: The Forensic Use and Judicial Reception of Evidence of Postnatal Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders in Australian Filicide Cases (2013). Melbourne Univeristy Law Review, 37: 297-341, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2380318

Lorana Bartels (Contact Author)

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice ( email )

Australia

Patricia L. Easteal

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice ( email )

Australia

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