Burnham-On-Sea MP James Heappey asked Theresa May about the tragic case of stillborn Grace Luxon today during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The Luxon family from Axbridge were involved in a car crash in March 2018 on the B3151 near Somerton caused by a dangerous driver in which Mrs Luxon and her daughter were very badly injured. Tragically, Mrs Luxon was 26 weeks pregnant and her child was lost as a direct consequence of the crash.
Jackie and Tom Luxon, from Axbridge, Somerset, want MPs to amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 to recognise an unborn baby over 24 weeks as a person. It would allow charges to be brought when an unborn child was seriously injured or killed in a road collision.
When the case reached court, the driver of the vehicle was found guilty of dangerous driving but only the injuries to Mrs Luxon and her daughter were relevant to the case, and the unborn child had no standing in law.
Mr Heappey’s question to the Prime Minister was: “My constituents, Tom and Jackie Luxon and their daughter were involved in a car crash that was the fault of a man who police found to have been driving dangerously for 16 miles before the impact. Jackie was 26 weeks pregnant at the time of the crash and the baby was stillborn as a result. However, only the injuries caused to Mrs Luxon and their older daughter were relevant when charging and subsequently sentencing the driver. The baby, who the Luxons named Grace, got no justice at all. I understand from the police and stillbirth support groups that the Luxon’s tragic experience is sadly far from unique.”
“Will the Prime Minister look again at the 1988 Road Traffic Act so that those who cause death or injury to viable babies over 24 weeks gestation through dangerous driving, can be held for responsible for these tragic losses of life?”
Mr Heappey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The Luxons have been so brave in wanting their personal tragedy raised in Parliament so that this injustice can be exposed. It cannot be right that somebody who is driving dangerously and kills an unborn child cannot be punished for causing such misery to a family. I hope that the Government will look again at this legislation and implement Grace’s law.”
The Prime Minister said that changes to the law could be considered but cautioned that changes could have ‘unintentional consequences’.
How the tragic incident unfolded
On 28 March 2018, the Luxon family were involved in a car crash on the B3151 near Somerton. The offending driver had been driving dangerously for 16 miles before he drifted on to their side of the road and collided with the Luxon’s car at speed. As a result of the collision, Mr and Mrs Luxon lost their 26-week-old unborn baby. Mrs Luxon and their 3-year-old daughter also suffered serious injuries.
The prosecution team investigated charging the offending driver with death by dangerous driving but found that the Road Traffic Act 1988 does not recognise an unborn baby of 24 weeks gestation and over as a person. Instead, the offender was charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Why does the law need changing?
The Road Traffic Act 1998 does not currently recognise an unborn baby (of 24 weeks or more gestation) as a person. This means that dangerous drivers cannot be charged with causing the death of an unborn baby capable of being born alive.
Therefore, in the case of the Luxons, had there not been serious injuries to Mrs Luxon and her 3-year-old daughter, there would have been no legal recognition of the death to the unborn child as caused by the offending driver.
We are asking for the Act to be amended to recognise an unborn baby over 24 weeks as a person. This change would allow charges to be brought when an unborn child was seriously injured or killed in a road collision and justice for the victim’s family.
Is there precedence elsewhere in the law?
Yes, the Infant (Life) Preservation Act 1929 and the crime of child destruction recognises an unborn but viable foetus as a child capable of being born alive before it has a separate existence (viability now defined as 24 weeks gestation or above). The wording of this Act is explicit and sets out clear exemptions to avoid unintended consequences.
A stillborn baby was also officially recorded as a victim in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
This inconsistency and lack of recognition is causing additional distress to families who have been involved in road crashes and whose unborn babies have died. Their baby’s existence is not currently recognised in road traffic regulation.