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Charges over unborn baby’s death ‘cruel, unnecessary’

Wednesday 9 Jan 2013 10:07 a.m.

The Wellington man accused of careless driving causing the death of his partner’s unborn child has pleaded not guilty at the Wellington District Court today.

Bililigne Yohannes Gebretsadik, 40, and his heavily pregnant partner were involved in a head-on car accident in Newtown last June.

Gebretsadik’s partner was taken to hospital where an emergency caesarean was carried out but the foetus later died and police laid three charges of careless driving.

In court today, Gebretsadik entered a not guilty plea and was remanded at large until a status hearing on February 28. His partner is standing by him.

Defence lawyer John Miller says the entire ordeal was a tragedy and the court process is an “unnecessary and cruel” procedure.

“He wasn’t careless, he had the benefit of a green light. The partner is distressed and it is distressing to go through this six months after the event,” says Mr Miller.

“This was the loss of a longed-for child. There should be some discretion exercised in a case like this."

The accident occurred on the corner of Adelaide and John Road.

Gebretsadik’s partner was more than 30 weeks pregnant and the baby was due two months later.  

Detective Inspector Paul Basham says the decision to press charges was not taken lightly, and police sought independent legal opinion on the investigation.

“While this will be a difficult time for the family, police believe the matter should be put before the court for final determination,” Mr Basham told Fairfax.

It’s understood this case is the first time police have charged a driver for the death of an unborn child. Victoria University criminal law expert associate professor Elisabeth McDonald says it will be a “test case”.

"The police will have to prove the causation test is satisfied - in other words, the child would not have died but for the accident,” Ms McDonald told Fairfax.

She says the outcome will define whether a 31-week-old foetus can be counted as a person under the law.

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