The Age

Mother jailed for scalding baby girl

The Age (Melbourne)
Tuesday 10 April 2001

A pregnant mother who deliberately dipped her baby girl into scalding water after she soiled her nappy was jailed for nine months yesterday.

The 22-month-old twin girl, who also suffers from the genetic disease cystic fibrosis, received burns to a third of her body in the incident on July31, 1999.

The 23-year-old mother's de facto was put on three years' probation for telling police he accidentally burnt the baby in the bath.

The sentencing hearing in the District Court in Brisbane was told the woman from Queensland's Wide Bay region had suffered depression since the incident. A psychiatric report described her as having low intelligence and poor social skills.

The woman, who cannot be named, was found guilty after a two day trial in February on the charge of causing grievous bodily harm to the baby.

The child suffered severe full thickness scald burns to her scalp, the back of her head, her shoulders, back, and the back of her left leg after being immersed in 60 degree water for what could have been two seconds.

The jury was told the couple was caught lying about the incident after both claimed the father had accidentally burnt the child in the bath. However, the woman was charged after police planted a listening device in a unit at the Royal Childrens' Hospital where the couple stayed during treatment for the child.

The woman's de facto husband was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The court was told yesterday that the woman, who had four children at the time and was pregnant with her fifth child, claimed she was distracted by the girl's twin brother when the scalding happened.

She told police the baby girl was sitting in the shower tray and was accidentally sprayed with the hot water.

However, sentencing judge Brian Boulton rejected the claim and agreed with doctors' evidence that the burns were consistent with being dipped into the water.

Judge Boulton said the woman was under mounting stress but there was a need to enforce a sentence that would be a deterrent to others as the baby would have died without treatment.

"I don't suggest that you intended to burn her in a serious way," he said. "This was the result of mounting stress on you until you reached breaking point and became angry and frustrated and lost control of your feelings."

The woman received a three-year jail term to be suspended for four years after she serves nine months.

Her de facto was put on probation and will raise the children under supervision by a corrective services officer.


Copyright The Age Company Ltd 2001.