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Former Midwife Found Not Guilty Of Manslaughter Over Failed Home Births

Lisa Barrett showed no reaction as the verdict was read out in court.

The former midwife, 52, was found not guilty over the deaths of two newborns during home births in 2011 and 2012.

The cases involved one birth of twins, and a breech birth with other complicating factors.

Justice Ann Vanstone, sitting without a jury, handed down the verdict as supporters of Barrett and the families of one of the babies watched on. She did say that although Barrett was no longer a registered midwife, she was acting in that capacity, and so owed a duty of care to the mothers.

“Although I find that the accused’s conduct was less than competent, I am not satisfied that her conduct merits criminal sanction," she said on Tuesday.

“My verdict in relation to each count is not guilty.”

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Barrett's care of the mothers and their babies was grossly negligent, and the deaths were preventable.

READ MORE: Viral Home Birth Video Sparks Delivery Debate

Barrett handed in her midwife’s registration when she came under investigation for involvement in another birth. She instead called herself a 'birth advocate'.

Lisa Barrett left court a free woman on Tuesday, surrounded by supporters.

Sarah Kerr lost one of her twins, Tully, during a home birth that Barrett was overseeing, and gave evidence during the trial. The little boy’s sister had been born successfully, but his heartbeat began dropping rapidly during delivery.

The judge agreed Barrett was slow in her responses and in making a decision to get Tully to hospital, but that it was unlikely the baby could have been saved.

A second mother, who can't be identified, lost her baby during a breech birth. Justice Vanstone said while there were points during the delivery Barrett might have advised the mother to go to hospital, her judgement was clouded by her own belief the birth could still be completed successfully at home, and by her wanting to stand by the strong wishes of the mother to have a home birth.

Justice Vanstone acknowledged Barrett's conduct during the births fell short of that of a competent midwife, but didn't believe she was criminally negligent.

READ MORE: NSW Midwives Beg For More Staff

Barrett has previously faced a coronial inquest about her role in three home births in SA, as well another in Western Australia.

She was flanked by supporters as she walked free from court today.

Contact the author: tryan@networkten.com.au