Volume 24 Number 2
  • ISSN: 1566-7146
  • E-ISSN: 2667-1611



Even after 1867, date of the new Belgian criminal code, several child murders were prosecuted before the Court of Assizes of West Flanders. The victims were usually children out of wedlock and the perpetrators usually their unmarried mothers. Although the criminal law still allowed this, none of those perpetrators were punished with the death penalty. A life-long forced labour was then the highest punishment, but was then also imposed very exceptionally. Forced labour of 7 to 15 years was then the most commonly imposed punishment.

Because there is nothing in the preserved records about what the accused or their lawyers stated during the sessions of the Assize Court and because the juries never motivated their positive or negative verdict on the guilt of the accused, the question why the accused of a child murder was found guilty or innocent and then punished or acquitted, never can be answered with one hundred percent certainty. More specifically, in acquittals, careful consideration should be given to whether the accused was acquitted because the jury did not consider the material or moral element of the infanticide to be proven. Blindly claiming that all mothers charged with infanticide were acquitted because those mothers were in a state of insanity or psychological distress is an injustice to the jurors and history.


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