More Support Needed After Mum Kills Baby

A charity's calling for changes to the way women with post natal depression are treated, after a baby was killed in Edinburgh.

A charity's calling for changes to the way women with post natal depression are treated, after a baby was killed in Edinburgh.

Erin Sutherland smothered her nine-month-old daughter at the family home after a letter had arrived from the baby's father detailing his proposals for arranging access to the child.

A court heard that Sutherland had previously received hospital treatment in 2006 following the birth of an older daughter, when she was again diagnosed with post natal depression. Her symptoms worsened when the child was eight months old and led to her becoming an inpatient.

But when her family doctor contacted a perinatal mental health team for her to see a community psychiatric nurse following a consultation in December last year, support could not be offered.

Advocate depute Iain McSporran: "That team and the CPN were unable to offer support now that the baby was older than six months."

The prosecutor said that he understood after consulting with psychiatrist John Crichton that "generally speaking" six months is a point beyond which PND will no longer be considered a factor.

He said: "In this regard, he attaches importance to the fact that in her previous experience of PND the severe recurrence had been at the eight month stage."

Mr McSporran told the High Court in Edinburgh: "I do not think that I misrepresent Dr Crichton when I say that he believes that a different system, and I emphasise system rather than the actions of any individual, might well have seen a different outcome."

The NSPCC in Scotland say the current situation is failing mothers and their children. The charity's Joanna Barratt told our reporter: "The idea that after six months, if something was going to happen it would have happened, seems to us quite frankly wrong.

"Services need to be there when mums need them, and for as long as mums and families need them. And sadly that doesn't seem to have happened in this case."

She continued, "We don't want to suggest all mums who experience poor mental health are going to harm their baby or can't look after them, but we know that poor maternal mental health can impact on the mum-child bond. So we need to do all we can to make mum better but also do all we can to make sure baby has got a loving and nurturing environment."

In court, Mr McSporran said that Crown counsel intended to look at issues in more detail to see if matters should be aired at a fatal accident inquiry into the death of Chloe Sutherland.

Sutherland was originally arrested for the murder of her daughter, but today pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of culpable homicide.

She admitted assaulting Chloe, who was born April 8 last year, at their home in Parkhead View, Edinburgh, on February 3 this year and covering her mouth and nose with the baby sustaining injuries from which she died.

Sentence was deferred on Sutherland for reports and she will be held in hospital under a treatment order.

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