Mother sentenced for child's drowning

The mother of a Levin woman whose child drowned while unattended in a bath says her daughter was doing what all mothers have done, but was terribly unlucky.

The woman was sentenced in the High Court in Palmerston North today to four months’ home detention for the manslaughter of her toddler.

The woman was also granted permanent name suppression.

The toddler, who had a history of having seizures when hurt or left alone, drowned in a bath at home on October 25, 2012.

The woman had come home after spending the day trying to get food and money from various agencies, as money was tight for her family, and found the child with a soiled nappy.

Her partner at the time had not changed the nappy, so she - heavily pregnant at the time - removed the nappy and placed the child in the bath.

She then put knives on the stove in preparation to take cannabis, then went outside to supervise her other child playing in the yard.

It is estimated she left her child alone in the bath for up to 13 minutes.

When she went back to her child, it was lying face-up, lifeless, in the bath.

She pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this year, after a sentencing indication of a community-based sentence.

In court today, the woman’s mother read her own victim impact statement to the court.

She said her daughter, who looked at the ground and cried while standing in the dock, was a great mother who people had been quick to judge for an unlucky moment.

‘‘If we are honest, [mothers] have all put babies in the bath and walked out and got away with it.’’

She said her daughter had been strong throughout the long legal process, which had caused the extended family much grief.

‘‘She puts on a brave face and gets on being a... great mother.

‘‘It is my hope she will be shown leniency when the judge hands out his punishment, as she lives with pain and hurt in her heart, and will do so for the rest of her life.’’

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said a line needed to be drawn between what was a lenient and merciful sentence in the case, and that she should be given home detention.

He also opposed name suppression, saying it had not been proven naming her would cause extreme hardship.

Defence lawyer Steve Winter said suppression should not be granted just for the sake of the woman, who had suffered depression since the child’s death, but for the sake of her two other children.

‘‘Any impact on her would be inevitable and would put them at risk.’’

Justice Ronald Young said it was accepted she had not taken any drugs before her child died.

There were many pressures on her at the time of her child’s death, and she was not given adequate support.

‘‘There is little to admire in the actions of your partner in this,’’ the judge said.

‘‘You simply forgot for a few minutes about [your child].’’

While leaving a child alone in a bath was bad enough as it was, the fact her baby had seizures when left alone or hurt aggravated the situation, the judge said.

Final name suppression was granted ‘‘by the slimmest of margins’’, the judge said.

She could have been sentenced to up to a year home detention, but it was reduced significantly as it would be difficult to complete while taking care of her two children.

Manawatu Standard