Woman handed community order for infanticide of newborn daughter

Babita Rai was cleared of the murder of the child who was found in a park in Aldershot, Hampshire.

Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)
Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)

A care home worker convicted of the infanticide of her newborn daughter, who was found dead in a park, has been handed a community order.

Babita Rai, 24, was previously cleared by a jury at Winchester Crown Court of murdering the child, who suffered injuries including multiple skull fractures and was believed to have lived for less than six hours.

Her body was discovered by a gardener in a park in Aldershot, Hampshire, several days later on May 19 2017.

Winchester Crown Court heard that the fatal injuries to the newborn girl, who was not given a name and was referred to by police as Baby M, were inflicted by Rai or another unknown person acting with her.

Mr Justice Johnson handed Rai a two-year community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement for 30 days, telling her that the mitigation in her case was “overwhelming”.

The judge described how Rai was living in a “patriarchal society in Nepal” when she became pregnant, which would have “brought great shame” on her and her family.

“You kept the pregnancy a secret, you yourself were in denial that you were pregnant,” the judge told Rai.

“You came to this country to join your family some months into the pregnancy.

“You didn’t seek any medical help.

“You continued to keep the pregnancy a secret, at least from the outside world and those who could have provided you with help and support.

“There is evidence that someone was with you around the time of the birth.

“You have not been forthcoming about that.

“When you came to give birth, the psychological trauma from which you had been suffering came to a head.

“No longer could you deny the existence of what was now a living newborn baby girl.

“You or very possibly a person you were with inflicted dreadful injuries on that baby girl.

“She was left for dead and she did die within a very short time.”

Crown court stock
Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)

The judge said the balance of Rai’s mind was disturbed when she committed infanticide, an offence that recognises that a mother’s criminal responsibility in such circumstances is “greatly reduced”.

He told the court that though infanticide can carry a sentence of life imprisonment, custodial sentences are extremely rare.

Over the past 42 years, there is only one recorded instance of a prison term being imposed and this was later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

“The law therefore recognises that what is required in this type of case is very often compassion and support and rehabilitation, rather than punishment and retribution,” the judge told Rai.

“That is certainly true in your case.”

Before the infanticide, Rai was of good character and had not committed any offences in Nepal or the United Kingdom.

The judge said Rai was living away from her home country, did not speak English, and was unable to access services for pregnant women and new mothers.

“You were wholly dependant on your family, for whom this baby would have been regarded as a curse not a blessing,” he told her.

Rai has spent 385 days in custody, equivalent to a sentence of more than two years, which would have been “particularly difficult” due to the Covid-19 pandemic and her not speaking English.

The judge said a prison sentence was not required for public protection and would not address any risk Rai may pose to a future child of hers, particularly one from an unwanted pregnancy.

“None of that is to suggest that this offence was not serious, it was,” he told Rai, of Reeves Road, Aldershot.

“It resulted in the ultimate harm to a newborn baby.

“But the mitigation in this case, as in many cases of its type, is overwhelming.”

Rai will be barred from engaging in regulated activities with vulnerable adults and children as part.

She must also engage with her doctor and mental health professionals.

Speaking after the case, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Storey of Hampshire Police, described the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death as “truly heartbreaking”.

The “long and harrowing” investigation into what happened included police visiting 1,200 households, completing 5,000 questionnaires and viewing more than 1,000 hours of CCTV footage to identify Rai.

“It cannot be underestimated how much such a terrible event affects the local community,” Mr Storey said.

“The investigation and subsequent trial has provided important information and answers as to what occurred.

“The jury examined these facts and sensibly returned infanticide as their verdict.

“This brings the case to a satisfactory conclusion but death of Baby M will remain a tragedy for all involved.”

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