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A mother has been sentenced for mistreatment of her child at Starship Hospital. Photo/NZME
A mother who was caught poisoning her son at an Auckland city hospital while medical staff scrambled to save her little boy’s life has been sentenced to 11 months in prison at home.
A South Island resident, who still suffers from name suppression, admitted earlier this year to repeatedly poisoning the baby over the course of a week and a half in August 2019, including at Dunedin Hospital before being flown to Auckland. Doctors had already warned the family that the baby might not survive what was then a mysterious illness when it was discovered she had tampered with the baby’s feeding tube.
The mother initially told the authorities that she did not know why she was doing this, but later said the goal was to draw attention to herself and relieve her of parenting duties. She has a history of mental illness.
During a victim emotional impact statement before Judge Kristen Gordon in the Auckland Supreme Court, the father of the now 3-year-old said he has always been the stable parent and primary caregiver for the children. But he said his life and his children have been turbulent over the past two years.
He said, “Nightmare is the best word to describe what I and the children have fallen into…”. “We take [her] Denying her guilt for so long, not allowing myself and my family to go on with our lives, is just plain cruel.
“There is no amount of anything to bring back the sleepless nights and stress that has already been endured. My children and I have done nothing to deserve it.”
Authorities say the mother searched online for articles such as “poisoning of children through eye drops” and “medicines that can kill young children due to accidental ingestion” while in the two hospitals with her son.
She administered an ingredient found in over-the-counter eye drops stolen from the hospital pharmacy, along with her antidepressant medication.
The child was put into an induced coma and suffered brain damage, but these days he seems to be thriving again.
“He almost got killed,” his father said during the victim impact statement. “He underwent a huge number of operations and tests that came with their own risks.”
The man said he supported his wife at first, believing there was no way for the mother of his children to behave in such a brutal manner. But as the weeks went by, and he realized she was desperately trying to blame him, he realized the reality of the situation, he said.
“he cheated on me [her] – To be treated as a suspect in the previous cases.
“My personal belief is a light sentence that will only be allowed to tamper with the system… and one day it will do more harm.”
The father recalled the emotional pain their children suffered at the hands of his sister, who also made a victim impact statement.
“Because [her] She said, “I have watched the constant harm. I have watched the life of my brother and his children completely destroyed.
“My family has suffered and endured enough pain…and deserves some justice.”
The defendant pleaded guilty in April to two counts of child abuse, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and one count of theft.
Defense attorney Julie Ann Kinkade said her client’s remorse was genuine. She demanded 10 and a half months imprisonment at home, noting that she had been successfully released on bail a year and a half ago.
The lawyer said the defendant believed there was no worse punishment than living without her children and knowing that it was because of her actions.
“That’s what you live with,” Kincaid said. “That’s what she has to face.”
Meanwhile, the King’s attorney general, Mark Harborough, has demanded four years in prison.
Judge Gordon noted the family’s ongoing pain that was illustrated in victim impact statements before her sentence was announced. She agreed with prosecutors’ assertion that there would be a long-term psychological impact on the son, which should represent a three-month sentence longer than it would have been issued otherwise.
But she also referred to the accused’s abusive upbringing and mental disorders.
“Your mental health at the time of the offense was clearly low,” the judge said as the defendant wiped her tears. “You obviously have a complicated psychological history.”
The judge said she accepts that the defendant is now taking steps to treat her mental illness, and that she regrets. She referred to a letter from a family member of the defendant who said she often cried for hours when she thought no one was watching, praying for her children.
“House arrest in itself is a serious punishment,” the judge said.
Under the terms of her sentence, the woman would be required to obtain permission from a probation officer and Oranga Tamariki if she wished to contact any of her victims. She will also not be allowed to stay alone with anyone under 16 without another adult in the room to supervise.
The judge approved the woman’s protection order for her son.
The child’s grandmother – who did not attend the hearing so she could watch her grandchildren while her son made the victim impact statement – said after learning of the verdict that she was “astonished” and “devastated”.
“We feel like the system has let us down massively,” she said, adding that she didn’t know how she would explain it all to her grandson when he’s old enough to ask him. “If that’s what’s happening to justice in New Zealand, it’s really concerning.”