P.E.I. woman pleads guilty to causing the deaths of two infants
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Tuesday, April 9, 2019 4:08PM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 9, 2019 6:18PM ADT
CHARLOTTETOWN -- A P.E.I. woman has admitted in court to causing the deaths of two infants, placing their bodies in bags and dumping them in a garbage bin.
Court documents say the babies both died "a short time" after they were born.
Shannon Dawn Rayner of Charlottetown pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of infanticide related to separate incidents in February 2014 and November 2016.
Court heard that a psychiatric assessment determined Rayner, who is about 40 years old, was fit to stand trial.
The assessment also found she did not suffer from a mental disorder that could have made her "not criminally responsible" for the crimes.
Prosecutor Valerie Moore said in an email that both the Crown and defence indicated in the court they would not challenge the report from the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Halifax.
Moore said Rayner then elected to be tried in provincial court, where she entered two guilty pleas.
The Crown directed a stay of proceedings on two counts of failing to seek assistance in child birth and two counts of disposing of a child's body with intent to conceal the fact it had been delivered.
The judge hearing the case ordered a pre-sentence report and then set June 5 for a sentencing hearing.
Rayner also pleaded guilty on an unrelated shoplifting charge.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled for the first time in 2016 on the infanticide provision of the Criminal Code, which turns on the definition of what constitutes a disturbed mind for a new mother.
Justice Thomas Cromwell, writing for the top court, said the legal test for a disturbed mind is lower than the legal test for insanity.
"The word 'disturbed' is not a legal or medical term of art, but should be applied in its grammatical and ordinary sense," Cromwell ruled.
"The disturbance must be 'by reason of' the fact that the accused was not fully recovered from the effects of giving birth or from the effect of lactation consequent on the birth of a child."
Cromwell's 19-page ruling traced the origins of the infanticide law to 1920s Britain, when "it was thought to be a crime mostly committed by 'illegitimate mothers' trying to hide their shame, a motive which the general opinion thought lessened the heinousness of the crime."
Infanticide made its way into Canada's Criminal Code in 1948.