Infanticide in England and Wales

Med Sci Law. 1993 Oct;33(4):329-39. doi: 10.1177/002580249303300411.


In England and Wales children under one year of age are at four times greater risk of becoming victims of homicide than either older children or the general population. The annual rate of infant homicide (45 per million) has remained relatively constant since the Homicide Act (1957) in contrast with a progressive fall in the infant mortality rate. Details from Home Office records of all infants under a year who were the victims of homicide during 1982-1988 are presented. Infants were most at risk on the first day of life--neonates accounted for 21% of victims and 13% of the victims were between one day and one month old. Thereafter the proportion decreased steadily so that by the final quarter of the first year the risk of becoming a homicide victim equalled that of the general population. Excluding neonates, there were more male victims than female ones, especially in the first three months. A parent was the most likely perpetrator. For all neonaticides the mother was recorded as a suspect, 36% of these mothers were subsequently indicted, all but two were convicted of infanticide and all their convictions resulted in probation. For children over a day marginally more fathers than mothers were recorded as the prime suspect. Mother and father suspects were equally likely to be indicted and also equally likely to be convicted of a homicide offence. However, mothers received both less severe convictions and less severe sentences than fathers. Fathers were more likely than mothers to have killed their infants using violence which wounded. Nonetheless sentences were unrelated to the brutality of the offence: mothers who had killed with wounding violence received less severe penalties than fathers who had killed in a non-wounding way.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infanticide / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Infanticide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Wales