Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Charges in NZ airliner baby case

Generic image of an aeroplane wing
The woman may face other charges related to the incident

A Samoan woman has been charged with child abandonment after giving birth on a flight from Samoa to New Zealand and leaving the baby in an aircraft toilet.

The 29-year-old unnamed woman gave birth after the plane took off from Apia and left the baby in a rubbish bin before leaving the plane in Auckland.

Child abandonment comes with a possible prison sentence of up to seven years.

The mother was reunited with the baby, Grace, in hospital, but is in the care of social welfare services.

Nobody else was aware that she was in labour prior to the flight
Detective Inspector Mark Gutry

The mother may also be facing a fine of up to NZ$100,000 (£57,000) and another seven years in prison for allegedly failing to reveal the fact she was pregnant, which is illegal under New Zealand's Immigration Act.

The woman was ordered to be placed in police custody by a court on Wednesday and is due to appear in court again on 9 April.

"It's not certain when the mother went into labour, and nobody else was aware that she was in labour prior to the flight," Detective Inspector Mark Gutry was quoted by AP.

Immigration officials are examining information provided by the woman on her visa application and how she boarded the plane at such an advanced stage of pregnancy, said a spokesman for the Pacific Blue airline.

Airport staff became suspicious when they noticed her blood-stained clothing as she tried to leave the airport in Auckland.

It has not yet been decided whether the child will be classified as a New Zealand or Samoan citizen.

Pacific Blue, the airline involved, says passengers who are more than 36 weeks pregnant must have medical clearance to fly.

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