UK
18/06/2015 15:37 BST | Updated 22/06/2015 16:59 BST

Petition Calls For Child Destruction Past 28 Weeks To Be Charged As Murder Following Malorie Bantala Attack

A petition has been launched calling for the laws on intentionally killing an unborn child to be changed, following the attack on Malorie Bantala.

Bantala, 21, was subject to an "abhorrent and vile" assault in Peckham on Monday, which resulted in her losing her 32-week-old unborn baby.

Adam Pearson, who started the Change.org petition, wrote: "The death of Baby C has highlighted a large issue with the British law. A 32-week-old baby would have been able to survive outside of the womb with ease, and many do. Yet the two people responsible for killing the baby can only be held accountable for GBH or, very rarely, child destruction."

malorie bantala

Malorie Bantala remains in a critical condition

He added: "We live in the 21st century, not the 1800s. It's time for the law to change. After all, another six weeks and killing this baby would have resulted in a murder charge."

One of the 212 people that signed the petition, Claire Turnball, commented: "I feel that if an unborn child has the possibility of surviving outside the womb then it should be classed as murder. I also believe that someone killing an unborn child should be charged with murder, as they've not given the unborn child the chance to live as it would do if the incident hadn't taken place."

Another wrote: "It's murder. Plain and simple."

The charge of child destruction, part of the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929, is rarely used. The 1958 Crimes Act states that anyone "with intent to destroy the life of a child capable of being born alive, by any wilful act unlawfully causes such child to die before it has an existence independent of its mother" would be guilty of the offence.

It also stated that, in order for a person to be charged with child destruction, there would need to be evidence to prove that the woman had been pregnant for a period of 28 weeks of more. Like murder, child destruction carries a life sentence, because the crime involves a wilful act of causing death, but can't be classed as murder or manslaughter, because the baby has not taken an independent breath.

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told The Huffington Post UK: “The Society regards the attitude of the law as entirely anachronistic and at odds with what is now very common knowledge about how an unborn child develops.

“The fact that the law does not regard the child before birth as a person is something that is glaringly in need of correction.”

However, a change in the law could further blur the lines surrounding child destruction laws, which were put in place to overcome the need for proof that a child was born alive for murder to be charged. Pinpointing a week during gestation in which a child could be born and survive has the potential raise arguments regarding reproductive rights.

The man charged with Malorie Bantala's attack, 20-year-old Kevin Wilson, is due to appear in court on Thursday charged with child destruction and grievous bodily harm with intent.

Many took to Twitter to express their thoughts on the charges.