A landmark case due to be heard by the UK’s Court of Appeal could lead to the criminalisation of drinking while pregnant.
The case will argue that a six-year-old girl is the victim of a crime because she suffered brain damage when exposed to alcohol in the womb – a risk that her mother was aware of, according to a report by Sky News.
If successful the case could set a precedent and criminalise excessive drinking while pregnant
The case comes amid a 50 per cent rise in Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the past three years, with 313 damaged from exposure to alcohol in the womb in 2012/2013.
Figures from the Department of Health show in total around one in 100 babies are now born with alcohol-related disorders.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Raja Mukherjee warned pregnant women do not have to binge-drink to be at risk.
He told Sky News: “If you avoid it that’s the safest route.”
“That doesn’t mean that people who’ve drunk a little bit have harmed their child, most people won’t have done, but if you want to guarantee safety and you want to guarantee no risk then no alcohol is the best way forward.”
Sue Brett, the adoptive mother of 15-year-old Glenn who was born with FAS after his mother drank excessively, told Sky News: “It should be to abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy. You can’t make it a criminal offence if you are still legally saying this is a safe amount to drink or you can drink.
”It needs to be clear from the start that you can’t drink.”
Glenn, who was exposed to alcohol in his mother’s womb, has physical disabilities affecting his vision and movement, and the mental age of a four-year-old.
Susan Fleisher, the founder of the charity NOFAS-UK which promotes awareness about the impact of alcohol during pregnancy, has said more needs to be done but that criminalisation was not the answer.
She said: “Women can’t be prosecuted for something they don’t know about, and, to be fair, women who are alcoholics, who have an issue with drinking, should be given support and should be given information so they know there’s a chance they could harm another life.”