A mum who deliberately switched off her baby’s intravenous feeding device in hospital, leaving her malnourished and close to death, has walked free.
A mum who deliberately switched off her baby’s intravenous feeding device in hospital, leaving her malnourished and close to death, has walked free.

‘Calculating and callous' mum who starved baby walks free

A MOTHER who starved her young baby, deliberately turning off the malnourished child's intravenous feeding device in hospital, has walked free from court.

A Brisbane District Court judge today sentenced the mother, 30, to a wholly suspended four-year jail term for causing grievous bodily harm to her baby daughter, now four.

Child Safety has allowed the little girl, who almost died on multiple occasions because of profound malnutrition, to live with the mother and her three siblings since March.

Judge Michael Williamson said to now remove the child from the mother's care, by sending the mother to prison, would be highly undesirable.

"She has suffered more than enough impacts," the judge said of the child, who was between three and 10 months old when she was starved by the mother.

He said jailing the mother now would have an impact on all four children and destabilise the family.

Judge Williamson said the mother's offending was serious, with it having an immediate impact on a vulnerable baby who was dependent on her for survival.

While in hospital the baby required morphine for pain, she was resuscitated several times and had to have intravenous treatment for severe protracted malnutrition.

Judge Williamson said the malnutrition, at a time of critical brain development, would have long-term consequences for the child, who is likely to have learning difficulties.

She is also at risk of long-term obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

However, the court heard that the child's doctor said she was now doing well under her mother's care and her development appeared normal.

Judge Williamson took into account it was a domestic violence offence against a vulnerable infant over a protracted period.

The mother had taken steps to conceal the fact she was deliberately interfering with the feeding pump that was supposed to provide nutrition to the child intravenously.

But he also accepted she had pleaded guilty, she had no previous convictions, she was doing well raising four children, she was truly remorseful and had undergone extensive rehabilitation.

Judge Williamson accepted psychologists' evidence of the mother having been affected by long-term bulimia and the stress of being in a dysfunctional marriage and subjected to domestic violence when she harmed her child.

One psychologist said severe depression would have had an impact on her judgment, leading her to make very irrational decisions.

Crown prosecutor Sandra Cupina had told the court the mother's conduct was calculating and callous, subjecting her baby daughter to extreme pain.

The court heard that when the baby was admitted to a Brisbane hospital in December, 2015, she showed signs of profound malnutrition.

The mother later took her baby home with a portable apparatus allowing her to feed her nutrients intravenously, but the child continued to deteriorate and was readmitted.

Ms Cupina said the child was expected to die, was in pain and was sedated with morphine.

She said over time the child's heart rate decreased, she stopped breathing and was given oxygen and had to be resuscitated.

The mother insisted that the portable device be used to administer nutrition, instead of hospital apparatus, but the baby's health declined and she was admitted to the intensive care unit.

Ms Cupina said over three months while the child's grandmother was her primary care giver, the baby's health improved markedly, but it deteriorated after her mother resumed care.

After hospital staff became suspicious about the baby's failure to absorb nutrients, a check of readings on the portable device showed periods it had been turned off each day.

The Crown believes the mother was also responsible for fracturing the baby's catheter line.

After staff notified Child Safety and police, preventing the mother from having primary care, the baby's condition improved.


*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. 

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