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No blame for WA baby's death in prison

AAP logoAAP 7/10/2016

The care provided by government agencies to a month-old baby in prison did not contribute to the infant's death despite some communication failures, a WA coroner has found.

Baby Z was born in March 2011 at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth and died suddenly at Bandyup Women's Prison the following month.

In her findings released on Friday, Coroner Sarah Linton said the cause of death could not be ascertained despite several possibilities being examined.

She said experts had concluded that drugs in Baby Z's system did not provide an explanation alone for his sudden death.

Ms Linton also said Baby Z's mother co-slept with him sometimes but there was insufficient evidence to conclude that is what happened when he died.

"Baby Z's death is another sudden unexpected death of an infant child where medical experts are unable to explain why it occurred," she said.

"All that can be ascertained from the available evidence is that it is possible he died from either a natural or accidental cause, or a combination of both."

Several government agencies were involved in Baby Z's care, including staff at the hospital, prison and Department for Child Protection.

Ms Linton said despite some communication failures, the overall management of Baby Z's treatment, care and supervision was of a high standard and his tragic death could not be attributed to any agencies.

"They all acted to the best of their abilities to ensure that he remained safe and well while maintaining a bond with his mother," she said.

"It seems that their endeavours were successful, in that Baby Z's mother was able to form a loving and close attachment to him in the few weeks they were together and appeared to be caring for him well."

Ms Linton also noted Baby Z's mother had described the child as her hope for the future.

"Her loss is no doubt compounded by the fact that she is unable to have any more children," she said.

Ms Linton commented that the overall system for managing pregnant women and mothers of newborns in WA prisons was well-designed and implemented, although there was always room for improvement.

She said it was reassuring that Baby Z was the first infant to die at Bandyup Prison in 25 years since the system of resident children began.

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