Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles sentenced to 18 months’ jail in surrogacy case

By @chelean on
Australia's Tammy Davis-Charles (R), sits in a police vehicle after appearing for a questioning at the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 21, 2016.
Australia's Tammy Davis-Charles (R), sits in a police vehicle after appearing for a questioning at the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 21, 2016. Reuters/Samrang Pring

An Australian nurse has been given an 18-month sentence in Cambodia for her involvement in surrogacy practice. Tammy Davis-Charles has been found guilty in the Asian country’s landmark surrogacy trial along with two Cambodians, nurse Samrith Chakriya and commerce ministry official Penh Rithy.

On Thursday, Phnom Penh Municipal Judge Sor Lina also ordered Davis-Charles to pay 4 million riel (AU$1,200) and Chakriya and Rithy to pay US$2 million riel (AU$618) fine each. All three are sentenced to 18 months in prison. They were charged with being intermediaries between a pregnant woman and an adoptive parent, as well as falsifying documents.

There is currently no law on surrogacy in Cambodia; the government is still drafting one. However, the industry is known to operate in secrecy. Phnom Penh Post reports that parents desperate for their own biological children pay around US$50,000 (AU$63,000) for the process; the US$10,000 (AU$12,600) normally go to the surrogate mothers. The Ministry of Health banned the practice in October. The trio were arrested weeks later after the snap ban.

The court heard that Davis-Charles claimed to have tended to 23 surrogates during their pregnancies, paid them and signed their contracts with parents as a witness. She then paid Rithy US$600 to US$800 (AU$757 to AU$1,010) to organise the babies’ paperwork so they could leave Cambodia with their parents. She denied that she was the one who recruited surrogates or had falsified documents like birth certificate, though. Eighteen of the children carried by the surrogates were for Australian parents.

The Australian nurse, who herself has young twin boys born through surrogacy in Thailand, begged to be release during the final day of her hearing last month. She said she hadn’t seen her children for eight months since she was arrested in November. She also said she was suffering with cancer in her left eye. Chakriya, who was the translator for Davis-Charles, also begged to be reunited with her one-year-old daughter.

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