A mum who suffered two miscarriages at the hands of two violent ex-partners is calling for tougher laws on assaults that result in pregnancy loss.
Nicola Murray, 44, was six weeks pregnant when her abusive ex knocked her over in his car in 2013.
She suffered a miscarriage and her ex Stuart Hunter, 48, was convicted of culpable and reckless conduct at Edinburgh Sheriff Court the following year.
He was ordered to pay just £300 in compensation.
The mum-of-five described Hunter’s sentencing as a “slap in the face”, the Daily Record reports.
She said: “He hit me with such force that the car dragged me five to six feet across the floor.
“When I got to A&E, I was initially told I might be okay because it was so early in the pregnancy, but when I woke up the next day I was bleeding. I was devastated.
“To be told he had been ordered to pay £300 in compensation was a slap in the face. There was no recognition of my trauma or how I went on to lose my unborn baby.”
In 2017, Nicola lost a second child after she was allegedly attacked by a new partner.
She knew it was a boy and named him Brodie and set up a charity in his name to help other women who had suffered baby loss through domestic violence.
Nicola said: “I was absolutely devastated when I lost Brodie. The grief just overwhelmed me, it was like a tsunami. We had a service for him, but I felt like I had died too and they just forgot to bury me.
“Women bond with their babies long before they make it into the world and I didn’t know how to fix how I felt.
“I started going to support groups, but I realised that women like me had been referred to general miscarriage services and there would be couples together, which was not great.
“So I set up Brodie’s Trust to help women suffering baby loss as a result of abuse with recovery, advocacy and anything else they might need. But it also helped me to channel my grief.”
Nicola says she was shocked to discover that Police Scotland had received more than 7000 reports of domestic abuse in the last five years where pregnant women were involved.
Now she is fighting for the pregnancy of the victim to be treated by law as an aggravating factor, leading to tougher sentences.
Nicola, who obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request, said: “I used to naively believe that this only happened to me, but these figures show how many pregnant women are in domestic abuse situations.”
In 2021, she petitioned the Scottish Parliament to campaign for a change in the law.
The petition, named Brodie’s Law, is currently being considered and if it is passed as law, it would create a specific offence of “contributing or attempting to contribute, through violence, abusive behaviour, deception and/or coercion to the ending of a partner’s or ex-partner’s pregnancy”.
Laws in other parts of the United Kingdom are stronger concerning the offence of child destruction as an aggravating factor, but in Scotland is it not defined in law. In England and Wales, an offender could be jailed for as much as 15 years.
Nicola added: “Women in Scotland should get the justice they deserve and it’s time that miscarriage through abuse was brought in line with the rest of the UK.
“If we have a specific offence I think there will be more of a chance it will make it to court. I believe it will also act as a deterrent for abusers too.
“Women’s pregnancy loss is regarded as a medical event in Scotland, but the emotional and physical impact of this as a result of domestic abuse needs to be recognised.
“I’m trying to change this to help other women. It will never help me, because it’s too late, but if I can get the sentence that I think would have been appropriate in my case for others, it would be fantastic.”
Nicola’s Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland showed that a total of 7,310 domestic incidents reported between 2017-2021 had pregnancy documented as a “flagged issue,” meaning pregnancy was an issue in some way in each case.
Detective Chief Superintendent Sam Faulds said: “Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for Police Scotland and we are committed to working with our partners to reduce the harm it causes and ultimately eradicate it.
“These crimes are despicable and debilitating and we proactively target perpetrators and support victims and their families.
“We have worked hard to support effective and consistent implementation of new legislation, which recognises that domestic abuse takes many forms and criminalises coercive control. Our officers are trained to recognise and understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and the risk factors, including pregnancy.
“The statistics presented demonstrate that officers are identifying and recording in every report of domestic abuse where pregnancy is a risk factor.
“Where Police Scotland receives a report of domestic abuse it will be taken seriously, victims will be listened to and their report thoroughly investigated.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson told the Mirror: “Our sympathies go to anyone who experiences the trauma of losing a baby and the bravery Ms Murray has shown in pursuing this difficult issue is remarkable.
“At present, when the loss of a baby arises from a criminal offence, independent courts decide the appropriate sentence based on the offence committed as well all the facts and circumstances of the case. These facts and circumstances would include considering aggravating a sentence if a criminal offence resulted in the loss of a baby.
“A range of relevant offences can be used to prosecute such conduct including the common law assault which carries a maximum penalty all the way up to life imprisonment.
“Ministers have followed the powerful evidence given to the Petitions Committee and, while the legal issues are complex, we will always give close consideration to the arguments made.”