| 24.06,09. 02:38 AM |
Guilty mother sentenced today over starvation of child
June 24, 2009 12:00am
A MOTHER who deliberately starved her daughter to death is expected to be sentenced today to life in jail for her heinous crime.
A jury deliberated for a week before yesterday finding the mother, 35, guilty of murdering her 7-year-old autistic daughter by failing to provide her with food and medical care.
The girl's father, 48, was found guilty of manslaughter.
After visiting the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in the Supreme Court cells yesterday, defence barrister Dennis Stewart told The Daily Telegraph his client was devastated.
"This is not the outcome anyone expected," Mr Stewart said.
She faces a maximum of life in jail when sentencing submissions begin today. Her husband will be sentenced next month.
One of the most powerful submissions will be a victim's impact statement written by one of the couple's teenage children.
The statement is expected to detail the devastating life the girl and her siblings have been subjected to, living with prescription drug-addicted parents.
The father ran his hands through his hair in frustration as he was lead to holding cells at East Maitland Court yesterday.
Throughout the five-week trial, the court heard horrific details about the little girl's desperate condition when she was found dead in her faeces-littered bedroom on November 3, 2007.
The state of her emaciated and wasted little body, which weighed just 9kg, was at times likened to that of Holocaust victims.
Crown Prosecutor Peter Barnett SC argued the couple waged a campaign to get rid of the child, who had a range of medical conditions including autism and ADHD, because she was a handful.
But the father's defence barrister Mark Austin said his client was not guilty of murder because he didn't have anything to do with caring for the child.
Mr Austin argued that the mother was solely responsible for the girl and the father had nothing to do with her day-to-day care.
Mr Stewart told the jury the woman was a loving and caring mother but was also a prescription drug addict who could not cope with day-to-day matters and was oblivious to the child deteriorating in front of her.
The court was told the father had a Valium addiction of up to 25 tablets a day, while his wife would take a daily cocktail of 15 Valium along with multiple Panadeine Forte and Voltaren tablets.
The Department of Community Services, who knew of the family after removing a baby from their care in 2003, yesterday released a statement saying the system had undergone a major overhaul as a result of this child's death.
"Following this tragedy, the child protection system underwent an extensive, independent review by Commissioner Wood and the Government responded with a detailed, funded five-year plan," the statement said.