10 Apr 2009

Woman admits abandoning baby on flight

3:05 pm on 10 April 2009

A woman who has admitted abandoning her new born baby on a flight to New Zealand has been convicted and discharged.

Karolaine Maika, 29, gave birth on a flight from the Samoan capital Apia to Auckland in March, leaving the infant, Grace, in the aircraft's toilet cubicle.

In the Manukau District Court on Thursday, an assault charge was dropped and Maika pleaded guilty to the abandonment charge.

She stood in the dock and wept as police read out the summary of facts.

Judge Heather Simpson said she took into account that Maika had not expected to give birth on the flight and was under acute stress after a major depressive episode that was intensified by giving birth.

She said a conviction in itself is a substantial penalty and a discharge means the court recognises Maika had already suffered enough.

The woman's lawyer said her client had told no-one of her pregnancy, as it is considered shameful in the Samoan culture to be an unmarried mother.

Maika was on Thursday in the custody of immigration officials, while Grace was still in the care of Child, Youth and Family.

Maika was supported by family, members of her village, along with Samoa consul and trade commissioner Va'atu'itu'i Apete Meredith.

Immigration to look at case

Immigration officials on Thursday refused to confirm whether or not Maika is to be deported.

Maika was coming to New Zealand to pick fruit. Immigration New Zealand says the court action has been resolved and it will now look at the immigration aspects of her case.

Immigration will work with Child, Youth and Family regarding the welfare of the baby.

Immigration New Zealand says it will be in contact with Maika to discuss the details of her situation, but cannot say if or when she will be deported.

Tagaloa Enoke Puni, a relative of Maika's, says it is possible sanctions will be imposed on her when she returns to Samoa. But he is sure Maika's family will support her.