‘Sometimes the worst happens’: Newspaper Reportage of Infanticide and the Law in England and Wales since 1922

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Abstract

Across the twentieth century, the media has arguably remained the most significant forum for discussions of infanticide and how the crime should best be dealt with in England and Wales. Whereas in the early twentieth century debates in the press, as in Parliament, concentrated on whether or not there was any real need for a specific Infanticide Act to be passed, since this legislation was introduced 1922 the focus for media commentators has shifted explicitly or implicitly onto whether the Act is fit for purpose: should it be retained, reformed, or abolished altogether? Central to this is the enduring representation in England and Wales of the infanticidal woman as an offender who does not fit neatly into more established (and invariably misogynistic) tropes of female offenders and has often been depicted as a tragic rather than malevolent figure, despite the distressing and taboo nature of the crime. With rare exceptions, newspaper articles have thus for over a century tended to emphasise the ways such defendants should be seen as deserving of ‘special’ treatment that sets them apart from other women charged with homicide.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication100 Years of the Infanticide Act: Legacy, Impact and Future Directions
EditorsKaren Brennan, Emma Milne
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Chapter4
Pages91-115
Number of pages24
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781509961665
ISBN (Print)9781509961641
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • newspapers
  • infanticide
  • women
  • crime
  • mental health
  • Social History
  • criminal law
  • legal history
  • media history

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