Child Murder | Sections 20, 21 and 22 Crimes Act 1900 NSW


Sections 20, 21 and 22 of the Crimes Act deal with the offence of child murder. Each section is explained below:

Section 20

Section 20 of the Crimes Act says that a child is considered to be alive once it has been wholly born and breathed.

It is not murder to kill a child that is not yet born, however it is murder if the child dies after it is born from injuries that occurred before it was born.

Section 21

Section 21 of the Crimes Actsays that if you are the mother of a child that passes away, and you are found to have done something during the child’s delivery or after it has been born to contribute to its death, you can face a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Section 20, as discussed above, says that you can only be charged under section 21 if the child has been fully born and breathed.

Section 22

Section 22 applies in cases where you have been charged with the murder or manslaughter of a child.

It says that if the jury does not find you guilty of murdering the child, but believes that you helped to conceal or cover up the child’s birth, you can be found guilty of concealing the birth of a child under section 85 of the Crimes Act

For example, you could be charged under this section if the child died before, during or after its birth, and you helped to dispose of the child’s body.

Section 85 carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. However, this section will not apply if you can prove to the court that you concealed the child’s birth before the 28th week of pregnancy.

The Legislation

Sections 20, 21 and 22 of the Crimes Act, which deal with child murder, read as follows:

20 Child murder–when child deemed born alive

On the trial of a person for the murder of a child, such child shall be held to have been born alive if it has breathed, and has been wholly born into the world whether it has had an independent circulation or not.

21 Child murder by mother–verdict of contributing to death etc

Whosoever, being a woman delivered of a child is indicted for its murder, shall, if the jury acquit her of the murder, and specially find that she has in any manner wilfully contributed to the death of such child, whether during delivery, or at or after its birth, or has wilfully caused any violence, the mark of which has been found on its body, be liable to imprisonment for ten years.

22 Trial for child murder–verdict of concealment of birth

Where, on the trial of a person for the murder or manslaughter of a child, the jury are not satisfied that the person is guilty thereof, but are satisfied that the person is guilty of an offence within section 85, they may acquit the person of the offence charged and find the person guilty of an offence under the said section, and the person shall be liable to punishment accordingly.

Why Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Being charged with the murder of a child can be an extremely distressing and emotional experience.

However, with the help of our highly experienced criminal defence team, you can fight the charges to prove your innocence and secure a verdict of ‘not guilty.’

With over 15 years experience defending some of the most complex murder cases, we pride ourselves on our ability to obtain outstanding results in these extremely difficult cases.

Our senior lawyers, who have a wealth of experience winning these types of cases, can advise you of your options when it comes to fighting the charges, or seeking a lenient penalty from the court.

We will dedicate the time and effort to thoroughly examine all the evidence to find problems with the prosecution case – where issues are found, we can push to have the charges dropped outside of court, saving you time and money.

If the matter proceeds to a criminal trial, our experts will fight hard to protect your innocence by raising all possible defences to the charges and presenting all evidence that supports your case in a compelling manner.

Alternatively, if you simply want to accept the charges against you, our expert defence team can help you get the best possible outcome in your case by pushing to have the charges downgraded to a less serious charge.

So call us today on (02) 9261 8881 and book your FREE first conference to find out how we can help you defend your child murder case.