Brodie Donegan with children Lachlan, Nixon, and Ashlee. Picture: Peter Clark
Brodie Donegan with children Lachlan, Nixon, and Ashlee. Picture: Peter Clark

Loophole prompts rethink on road deaths of unborn

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she will consider changing the law after the driver who killed heavily pregnant Sydney woman Katherine Hoang cannot be charged with manslaughter for the death of her unborn twins.

Hoang, 23, was just a week away from giving birth to her twin boys when unlicensed driver Richard Moananu, 29, crashed into her car, killing her, her unborn babies and her 17-year-old relative and injuring her husband, Bronco Hoang, earlier this month in Sydney's west.

The horrific scene at Orchard Hills, where Katherine Hoang and her babies died. Picture: Gordon McComiskie
The horrific scene at Orchard Hills, where Katherine Hoang and her babies died. Picture: Gordon McComiskie

Moananu, who was alleged to have been driving at 45kmh over the speed limit, has been charged with two counts of manslaughter but cannot face similar charges for the deaths of Hoang's unborn twins because under NSW law the loss of a foetus following a criminal act is recognised as a "serious injury" to the mother, not a crime in itself.

Ms Berejiklian said she would seek advice from police and wanted to hear community views about whether there should be criminal charges for people whose acts lead to the deaths of unborn babies so close to birth.

"Of course you think about those issues in terms of what it means about recognising those unborn children, whose lives were dramatically and horrifically cut short," she said.

Floral tributes from members of the public at the crash site.
Floral tributes from members of the public at the crash site.

"Of course that concerns you and goes through your mind. If there are opportunities for us to improve how that is recognised, we will consider that. I'll get advice and get community feedback."

Ms Berejiklian said recognising an unborn baby was a complicated area of law, with many issues to consider, saying "if it was easy, it would have been done by now".

"I know how complex the issues are around this, but I also know from a human level what most people would feel," she said.

"The first thing that I felt was absolute horror that this had happened.

"Currently it is not law in NSW to do that, but obviously we always leave the door open to consider what we think is in the best interest of the community and we take advice from the police and other stakeholders."

Brodie Donegan was pregnant when a drunk driver hit her, resulting in the death of her unborn baby. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Brodie Donegan was pregnant when a drunk driver hit her, resulting in the death of her unborn baby. Picture: Justin Lloyd

Attempts to tackle this issue in 2014 failed because the legislation, known as "Zoe's Law", introduced by Christian Democrats' Fred Nile, did not ensure women who had abortions would not face criminal penalties.

It sought to have any foetus more than 20 weeks old, or weighing at least 400g, recognised as a living person under the NSW Crimes Act. The legislation passed the lower house, without the support of Ms Berejiklian, but failed in the upper house.

It was in honour of Sydney mum Brodie Donegan's unborn baby, who was killed on Christmas Day in 2009 when driver Justine Hampson, high on methadone, slammed into her car, but was only charged for injuries inflicted on Brodie.

She was sentenced to nine months' jail followed by an 18-month parole period.

"I would welcome any change in the law that is currently woefully inadequate and doesn't acknowledge the actual loss of a baby's life," Ms Donegan said.

"There is too much of a gap between the child being considered an injury to the mother - my child died without taking a breath outside my womb so she was not considered a loss a life and her death was listed alongside my injuries."

 



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