A 12-year-old girl who gave birth at a home in Western Australia could be charged over the pregnancy – along with the baby’s father.
Youth Legal Service WA solicitor Sally Dechow said the charges could be brought against the pair as the conception was considered illegal under state law, reported.
‘Legally they could both be charged, but in practice we’ve found it’s usually the boy who is charged.
‘You have to look at the welfare of these kids and whether it’s in the public interest to prosecute children of this age.’
The young girl went into labour at a Perth home, where the baby was delivered, before she was transferred to King Edward Memorial Hospital with her healthy child earlier this month.
She told staff she had no idea she was pregnant when she arrived at the Peel Health Campus and has since been discharged.
WA Police believe the baby’s father is a child of similar age to the mother and was 11 at the the time of the pregnancy.
Ms Dechow pointed out even though the pair are both under the age of 16 and were willing participants at the time, the law states they were below the age of consent.
She went so far as to say a charge and conviction could land someone on the registered child sex offender list.
Police have the ability not to prosecute after considering supervision and support options and if laying charges will be in the public interest.
The WA department said they are working with the Department of Communities, Department of Health and the girl’s family and said priority would be placed on family support.
‘There are complex social issues, which are being managed by all agencies, and the current priority is to ensure appropriate support is provided to the family,’ a police spokeswoman said.
Australian Medical Association former president Michael Gannon said children having children was a concern.
Not speaking about this particular case, he said some young girls tried to hide their pregnancy sometimes out of denial.
In other cases, they had no idea they were even pregnant.
‘People find it extremely hard to understand how a pregnancy can be concealed but it can happen,’ he said.
He pointed out children at the age of 12 were still developing physically and a skeleton that wasn’t properly formed posed risks in childbirth.
News of the 12-year-old giving birth sparked a coordinated response from health authorities.
There have been 12 registered births to mothers aged 12 since 1980 – the youngest to ever give birth – according to WA Health Department records.
In 2017 there were three registered births to girls aged 13 or younger, seven to 14-years-olds, and 21 to 15-year-olds.
The young girl has become one the youngest mothers in the state’s history.
The Department of Communities would not comment on the specific case, but confirmed the case required a joint support effort.
‘A coordinated response is required from a range of State Government and external support agencies both in the short and long term in order to make a lasting difference to the wellbeing of all affected parties,’ a spokesperson told the .
‘The Department of Communities, the WA Police and Department of Health work together intensively in the best interests of all concerned.’
Spokeswoman Jackie Tang said it was being investigated as to whether sexual abuse of the girl led to her pregnancy, of if she was likely to be abused.
‘Where necessary, the matter will be referred to the WA Police for further investigation and referrals to appropriate supports are provided,’ she said.