Do Unborn St Lucian Babies have Rights?

Mary Francis weighs in on Bois Patat double murder charge.

Post mortem results for Chrisel Fanis confirmed the 17-year-old who was four months pregnant died as a result of hemorrhagic shock, secondary to multiple stab wounds. Added to that it was discovered that her 18-month-old daughter who was also killed in Bois Patat on Monday, March 12 died as a result of brain damage and skull fracture, secondary to blunt trauma and not due to being stabbed as was previously speculated.
Chrisel’s death has sparked much interest in laws to do with proffering charges relating to the death of unborn children.
Police press relations officer Trevor Constantine this week attempted to answer the question of why the person charged for the incident was only charged with two counts of murder, and not three considering one of the victims was four months pregnant at the time of her death. Even before charges were filed the incident was being widely referred to as a triple murder.
Constantine explained: “Within the Criminal Code of St Lucia (2004), there is a section of the law that guides us and explains why he wasn’t or couldn’t have been charged for the death of the fetus. Under the chapter on Murder and Man Slaughter, Section 82 of the criminal code, subsection (1); Causing the Death of a Child reads:
“A child is a person in respect of whom the offense of murder or man slaughter may be committed if he or she has been born and has independent existence of his/her mother.
“2.) A person may be guilty of murder and manslaughter if he or she causes death to a child that is a person, in terms of subsection (1) by means of injury caused to it before it became such a person.”
“If an injury was caused to the child while in the mother’s womb and that person is born, for instance if you’re dealt a severe blow while you’re pregnant that harms the child in there, medically they’d have to examine and if it can be proven, that the injury caused to the fetus contributed to the death of the child when that child was born. Only then would you be able to charge that person for murder,” Constantine said. “As long as you can prove it. This law is very current, it has not been repealed. This is the legal bible . . . this is what we have to go by.”
Young Chrisel and her baby daughter are yet to be buried. Speaking with her father, the STAR learned the family was awaiting the arrival of her mother who resides in Barbados. Chrisel’s father Lius Dennis says he is not pleased with the way the matter is being handled by the police. He feels justice should be served in an expedited manner.
“Her mom is coming in this week, but I am not happy because all now they should be doing something,” Dennis related. “I’m suffering; I’m just there grieving for my daughter’s death. I and trying to understand what the police are saying about why he can’t be charged for the unborn child. If the mother died the baby would have died, but at the same time, if the mother wasn’t killed the baby wouldn’t have died. The killer is still the cause of the baby’s death.
“I struggled to bring my daughter up,” he said bluntly. “Both my daughter and granddaughter are dead.”
Dennis spoke of what seemed to be a series of events leading up to his teen daughter’s death.
According to the girl’s father, the first time Chrisel got pregnant, her mother took the matter to the police and later presented the issue of her being a minor and pregnant to Family Court in an attempt to have the man responsible arrested. The father of the now deceased teen says at that point the authorities did nothing.
“I was asked to bring in her birth certificate and in the end they told me she was already pregnant so they could not go forward with the case,” he revealed. “They didn’t take steps in the first place to arrest the guy. After that it was another issue to get her birth certificate back from them. My girlfriend went to get it numerous times and I went with Chrisel to get it and for whatever reason they didn’t want to give it back.
“She needed her birth certificate to renew her passport,” her father continued. “If they had given it to me my daughter would not have been in St Lucia. She was going to go live in Barbados with her mother. Her mother sent money for her and her twin sister to renew their passports and that money stayed in their hands for two months.”
Chrisel gave birth to her daughter when she was 16-years-old. The teen’s mother moved to Barbados but would often send her money, and according to Dennis, made sure her daughter had the necessary baby supplies. There were constraints with the living situation at the Dennis household—her father had three other children and resided with his girlfriend, twin daughters Chrisel and Chrisella and their children.
“It ended up in a place where I wasn’t working and the children saw that things were bad so they started going places,” he said. “One went to live with her child father and then the other did the same. I told them to stay but they didn’t want to. They took their things and left. Both of them were living with their boyfriends.”
According to police reports detectives attached to the Major Crime Unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, have preferred two charges of murder against the teen’s 24-year-old boyfriend in relation to the death of his 17-year-old girlfriend, Chrisel Alisha Fanis and her daughter Takisha Fanis, one year and six months old.
Chrisel’s boyfriend appeared in court on Monday, March 19 where he was remanded at the Bordelais Correctional Facility until April 12, when he reappears in court for case management.
Human Rights Attorney Mary Francis speaking to the STAR this week was of the opinion that there was need for laws to be amended to protect the rights of unborn children.
“The section dealing with murder doesn’t actually provide for a person who is not born,” Francis commented. “It speaks of a person who’s born and capable of living independently of the mother and doesn’t provide for a fetus. The point where a fetus can be seen as a person would have to be medically determined in the medial fraternity. This is an opportunity to look at that law and see what is the right of unborn children, because at a certain stage that fetus would become a person—we would have to move along with science to determine rights of the unborn child.
“The rights of the unborn child should be protected,” Francis reiterated. “According to the stage where science determines it is a person. It doesn’t have to be when that child is actually born. This issue goes right back to abortion, protecting the rights of the unborn, which is why people are saying abortion is against a person’s right to live. People are opposed to it on the principle of Right to Life and in that vein we need to amend this law so that at a certain stage the rights of a child should be protected. Cases like this are rare, however, we could look at those laws to reform it to take care of certain situations like that in the future.”
The STAR also learned that the law against Abortion could have been applied to this case.
More on this issue in Saturday’s STAR!

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