Charges: Negligent manslaughter x 1.
Case type: Sentence.
Facts: The defendant’s husband, JK, pleaded guilty to murdering the defendant’s daughter, CN. The defendant was charged with failing to remove CN from violence and obtain medical treatment for her (). JK inflicted horrific physical and psychological violence on the defendant and her two children for years (), including tying CN to the bed and hitting her with wooden slats (-, -). Expert evidence established that the defendant was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression caused by repeated exposure to violence (, -).
Issue: Sentence to be imposed.
Decision and Reasoning: Justice Hamill remarked that ‘[the] criminal law is a blunt tool in circumstances such as these’ (). The defendant’s psychological conditions substantially impacted the application of the principles of sentencing, the purpose of punishment and reduced the ultimate sentence. The impact was significant because first, there was a direct link between the violence suffered by the defendant and her neglect of CN (). Second, the weight afforded to general deterrence is greatly reduced (-). Third, the defendant’s rehabilitation through psychologists and psychiatrists would be interrupted by a custodial sentence (). Fourth, a full-time custodial sentence will weigh more heavily on TP than it would on a person who does not suffer from the severe depression, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder (). Fifth, the defendant was unlikely ever to offend again (). The offending was aggravated by CN’s young age and fragility ().
Having considered all possible alternatives, including a fine, bond or community service order, Hammill J concluded that only a period of imprisonment was appropriate (). Justice Hammill imposed a sentence of 4 years, with a non-parole period of 18 months (-).
Annexed to the judgement, at , is a useful summary of comparable cases, although no cases had precisely the same features as this one.