Montreal woman guilty of infanticide agrees to take regular pregnancy tests as part of sentence

A Montreal woman who admitted in court to killing her newborn baby has agreed to take pregnancy tests twice a year as part of her sentence, the first of its kind in Canada.

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The woman, right, must undergo pregnancy tests every six months and spend 20 months under house arrest. (Radio-Canada)

A Montreal woman who admitted in court to killing her newborn baby has agreed to take pregnancy tests twice a year as part of her sentence, the first of its kind in Canada.

The mother, 43, whose name is being withheld to protect the identities of her three living children, pleaded guilty to one count of infanticide last November.

She was sentenced Thursday at the Montreal courthouse by Quebec court Judge Linda Despots.

The woman was also given a 20-month suspended sentence under house arrest, as well as three years of probation. 

She will have to submit the results of the tests to her supervising officer during her house arrest, and then to her probation officer for three years.

Both the defence and the prosecution agreed on that aspect of the sentence together, the woman's lawyer, Joseph La Leggia, told reporters.

"I think it was more wanted than necessary," he said. "In this particular case, I find that all the circumstances called for it, and my client accepted it."

'No more denial of pregnancy'

La Leggia said the woman would honour the conditions of her sentence to avoid another surprise pregnancy. About three years before the infant died, the woman got pregnant without realizing but did not harm that baby.

Her lawyer said she would be allowed to have a baby, but "there will be no more denial of pregnancy as there was the last time."

Almost two years ago, the woman gave birth to her fourth child, a girl, alone in her bathroom, not knowing she was pregnant, the court heard.

Her partner found the woman bloodied in their bathtub. The baby was found in a plastic bag, still alive and with head wounds, which appeared to have been inflicted with scissors.

The infant died a few days later in hospital.

The mother's lawyer, Joseph La Leggia, is confident she will honour the proposed conditions. (Radio-Canada)

In her ruling, Despots cited the woman's probation officer, who said this was an isolated case, involving a mentally fragile person. 

She said youth protection got involved after the baby's death, but found the woman posed no risk to her other children.

Quebec's youth protection service, known by its French acronym DPJ, described the woman as an excellent mother and said she doesn't represent a risk to her three children, according to a report read out in court by the prosecutor during sentencing arguments. 

"She is a woman who has a lot of remorse. She suffered depression after the death of her child," said prosecutor France Duhamel.

The DPJ dropped the woman's file last December.

Duhamel said she wants to avoid depriving the children of their mother by sending her to prison.

Infanticide laws

The woman was originally charged with second-degree murder but the charge was reduced to infanticide.

The Criminal Code makes an important distinction between infanticide and murder or manslaughter.

An infanticide charge takes into account the potentially imbalanced mental state of a woman who just gave birth, and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

That is much less severe than the penalties for first and second-degree murder, which carry automatic sentences of life in prison, and manslaughter, which carries no minimum or maximum.