Court ordeal has 'crushed' mother

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 10/01/2013
Bililigne Gebretsadik
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ
COURT APPEARANCE: Bililigne Gebretsadik has pleaded not guilty to careless driving causing the death of his wife's unborn baby.

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For months Bililigne Gebretsadik and his wife tried desperately to have a second child.

Now the 40-year-old Wellington man is defending a charge of careless driving causing the death of the baby the couple wanted so badly.

At 31 weeks' pregnant, Seble Cherie was a passenger in a car Gebretsadik was driving when it crashed at an intersection in Newtown, Wellington, last June.

She was injured and lost the baby after an emergency caesarean section in Wellington Hospital.

A visibly upset Mrs Cherie said yesterday that she and her husband were honest people and the ordeal since her child's death had been very stressful. "It has crushed me," she said.

Gebretsadik, originally from Ethiopia, pleaded not guilty to three charges of careless driving, including a charge of careless driving causing death, when he appeared briefly before a registrar at Wellington District Court yesterday. He is due to reappear in court next month.

Legal experts have said the case could be the first of its kind in New Zealand. Similar cases overseas are also difficult to find.

Gebretsadik declined to comment yesterday, but his lawyer, John Miller, said he was unaware of a similar case and criticised police for laying the charges.

"Any sympathetic system of justice would have not even initiated this. It's a travesty."

The couple - who have an 8-year-old daughter - had difficulty conceiving the baby whose death Gebretsadik was charged with causing, Mr Miller said.

"It's been much wanted for a long time. It hadn't been easy and so it's doubly tragic for the whole family, and then to go through this criminal process just seems so completely bizarre and cruel.

"I wonder if someone in the police legal section is saying, ‘well, let's test the law in this area', but it's a very sad case to test the law.

"Test the law in an area where some drunken oaf kicked some pregnant woman, but not in this tragic situation."

Detective Inspector Paul Basham has previously said the decision to lay the charges was not taken lightly and the police investigation had been the subject of an independent legal review.

Mr Miller said Gebretsadik was not guilty of careless driving because he had the green light at the intersection. Instead, he alleged the other driver injured in the crash was at fault.

The intersection was unusual. "I can see how the other driver may have got confused", he said.

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Even if his client was found guilty of careless driving there were several "intervening acts", including the caesarean section and the premature birth, which could have played a part in the baby's death, he said.

There would also be arguments around whether the baby was legally deemed a person.

- The Dominion Post

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