A Christchurch woman charged with murdering her newborn child is in Hillmorton Hospital for psychiatric tests.Police allege the unemployed woman, from a western suburb, killed the child between October 1 and November 30.
She appeared before Judge Brian Callaghan in the Christchurch District Court yesterday and was remanded to December 22 for a psychiatric report to be prepared under the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act. She would be held in secure custody at Hillmorton Hospital.
The judge granted her interim name suppression.
Consultant psychiatrist Peter Dean, of the Waikato Hospital forensic service, told The Press there were about 45 cases of homicide of babies under one year old for every million births.
"It works out as a couple a year, which is comparable to the UK," he said. "It's been pretty consistent over a period of time, but New Zealand is perhaps a little on the high side."
Dean said research had shown several reasons for women killing their babies.
"There is a particular group that kill children in the first four weeks after birth, and they tend to be young mothers who have concealed their pregnancy and have the social issues associated with that."
Other women killed their children as a result of psychiatric conditions.
"Women can suffer postnatal depression or become psychotic and unwell," he said. "There's quite a strong association between postnatal mental illness and homicide of an infant."
Another reason was a mother killing her child for revenge on a partner.
Dean said a condition called Munchausen syndrome by proxy could also contribute to a mother killing a child.
The disorder is where a person deliberately causes injury or illness to a person to gain attention or sympathy.
In New Zealand, infanticide is when a woman causes the death of one of her children (under the age of 10) when at the time of the offence she was mentally disturbed because she had not recovered from the effect of giving birth, lactation or any disorder caused by birth or lactation. She is then guilty of infanticide, not murder or manslaughter, and is liable for a maximum of three years jail.