Claim by child: Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder

The England & Wales Court of Appeal recently addressed a claim by a child under a statutory criminal injuries compensation scheme. The claim was novel in that arose from being born (in 2007) with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, as a consequence of her mother’s excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It was asserted that the mother was aware of the risk to the child as a result of the excessive alcohol consumption.

The decision in CP (A child) v First-tier Tribunal [2014] EWCA Civ 1554 was of relevance to about 80 other similar pending claims, where compensation had been refused by the Authority: [3].

The decision focused on statutory interpretation. As the foetus was not a person at the time of administration of alcohol, the relevant grievous bodily harm offence was not then complete. No offence occurred after birth ([42]), by which stage the foetus had become a person. The court did not need to decide whether the offence met the statutory ‘crime of violence’ requirement.

Two interveners made contrasting submissions concerning women’s rights during pregnancy and the promotion of human life at the foetal stage. Those submissions did not impact the judgment, which was concerned with the correct interpretation of the statute: [55].

The decision did not address the possibility of any civil action by the child against her mother personally.