Sister of alleged driver killer backs calls to close unborn baby loophole

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The sister of a driver suspected of causing a deadly crash that killed a five-year-old girl and an unborn child has backed calls to change Victorian laws to recognise children killed in utero as victims of crime.

Bryana Kemp lost her daughter Savannah, 5, in the collision in Victoria’s north, and told The Age she was appalled to learn her sister, who was behind the wheel, could not be charged for causing the unborn boy’s death.

Savannah Kemp died at the scene of the crash.

“I think she deserves to be charged. I’m devastated she isn’t also being charged with the other family’s unborn baby’s death,” Kemp said.

“My daughter can’t be brought back. Neither can their child. Some might say what’s happened is punishment enough, but two innocent children lost their lives.”

Kemp’s sister, Chrystle Olivia Kemp, was driving to Dookie with Savannah when she allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign and crashed with two other cars in Shepparton East at about 2pm on October 20.

Savannah was critically injured and died at the scene, despite desperate efforts from passersby and paramedics to save her life.

The accident also seriously injured heavily pregnant woman Elodie Aldridge, who was driving to Shepparton from a midwife appointment in Wangaratta. Aldridge’s baby, 34-week-old Remi, died in utero, having never taken a breath.

Elodie Aldridge snapped her femur and wrist in a car crash, along with extensive catastrophic internal injuries and bleeding.Credit: Justin McManus

Kemp has been charged with a string of offences, including dangerous driving causing Savannah’s death and dangerous driving causing injury to Aldridge, but under Victorian law she cannot be charged for causing Remi’s death.

Aldridge and her husband Andrew are calling on the Allan government to bring our laws into line with NSW so that children like Remi can be recognised as people and anyone who causes their deaths can be held responsible.

NSW passed legislation recognising unborn children with a gestational age of at least 20 weeks as victims of crime in 2021 after a protracted battle led by Brodie Donegan, who lost her unborn daughter Zoe after a crash in 2009.

Kemp, who backs the Aldridge’s calls for law reform, said she was struggling to come to terms with the tragedy, which had caused a rift within her family.

On the day of the crash, Savannah’s grandmother was supposed to pick her up from kinder, but it was her aunt who came to get her instead. Kemp said the pair were going to Dookie to look at canola fields when the crash took place.

It wasn’t until Kemp got a phone call from her mother telling her Savannah and Chrystle had been involved in a crash that she realised her sassy and energetic daughter hadn’t made it home from kinder.

Savannah was due to start school next year and wanted to be a ballerina and soccer player.

“Savannah was the most precious, sassy little girl,” Kemp said.

“She had the biggest heart which was always full of laughter. She never walked anywhere, she danced or skipped. She was so brave and fearless – learnt it from her brothers.”

Kemp said Savannah was so thrilled about starting school next year she had been wearing her uniform around the house for weeks. She had spent the past few months practising her soccer skills with her brothers in the backyard and learning acro dance.

“I would always make jokes that she would dance the ball into the goals and that’s exactly what she did with them,” Kemp said.

“My sweet little baby, if given the chance would have ruled this world. She was destined for great things.”

However, attorney-general Jaclyn Symes ruled out introducing new legislation to close the gap and said current laws struck the balance between recognising the loss of a child and protecting women’s reproductive rights.

Under Victorian law, unborn children are not considered separate human beings from their mothers until they take their first breath, and causing the death of a child in utero is considered a serious injury to the mother.

Those responsible for causing the loss of an unborn child by means other than a medical procedure can be charged with recklessly or intentionally causing serious injury to the mother, regardless of whether the mother suffered any other injuries.

But they cannot be directly charged for causing the child’s death. That is despite parents of babies who die in utero aged more than 20 weeks being able to request a death certificate that recognises their child as stillborn, and the loss of a child also being included in victim impact statements presented to the court.

“The death of an unborn child is profoundly distressing and traumatic for parents, families and their loved ones. My heart goes out to the women and families who are affected by such tragedies,” Symes said.

“This is an extremely complex area of law where any changes could have unintended consequences including for abortion rights in Victoria, and we believe we have the balance right under the current laws.”

However, for grief-stricken people like the Aldridges and Kemp, the recognition doesn’t go far enough.

Perinatal mental health support is available from the PANDA National Helpline on 1300 726 306.

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