Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dad pleads guilty to abusing 3-week-old daughter; baby has "catastrophic injuries" (Canberra, Australia)


Baby shaken by father suffered 'catastrophic injuries', court hears

Date October 31, 2014

Megan Gorrey

Reporter at The Canberra Times

The maternal grandmother of a baby who suffered "catastrophic" brain injuries after her father shook her on two occasions has broken down as she told a court the toddler could not crawl or feed herself and faced a lifetime of depending on others.

The girl's father, 23, pleaded not guilty to recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm on the baby in December 2010 and a trial was set to start in the ACT Supreme Court in October.

But it did not go ahead after the Canberra man instead pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of negligently causing grievous bodily harm.

The father was left alone with the three-week-old girl in December 2010 while the mother went to the shops, court documents said.

The baby's mother grew concerned about her daughter when she returned home and found she was still, pale and cold. She noticed she was crying but not opening her eyes.

The child was rushed to hospital, where she had multiple seizures.

Medical tests showed the baby suffered a lack of oxygen to her brain and parts of the tissue had died.

She was airlifted to a Sydney hospital.

Her symptoms suggested the baby had suffered significant acceleration injury, which was consistent with being shaken.

In January 2011, the offender admitted to family he had shaken his daughter on two occasions when he became frustrated by her crying.

He later made further admissions to shaking the baby in text messages with the baby's mother and an unknown person, and said he was ashamed of what happened, court documents said.

During a committal hearing earlier this year, a doctor described the baby's brain injury as "catastrophic" and said there had been further damage and continued decay to the brain.

He said the girl was likely severely disabled as a result of the injury.

The baby's maternal grandmother sobbed as she read a victim impact system in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday.

She said her daughter had been "stressed and anxious" when the baby fell ill and before she later learned the father shook her.

"That was the moment my girl's world fell apart," she said. "I found her hysterically crying in the [hospital] ward, unable to tell me what happened.

"When she did, the horror was inexplicable."

The woman said the initial prognosis for the baby was "extremely bleak" and doctors could not fully predict the extent of her injuries.

She said her granddaughter, now three years old, could not feed, dress, wash or bathe herself.

Her vocabulary was limited and she couldn't crawl, stand or walk.

"She will be forever and totally dependant on others for all acts of daily living."

The woman said her daughter had felt the physical, mental, emotional and financial pressures of having to look after the girl's "constant and consistent daily needs".

The toddler was unlikely to ever get married, have a job, or make a sandwich, her grandmother said.

She said her daughter had been "sentenced to a lifetime of caring for a child with a disability and all that entails", while the child faced "a lifetime of depending on others".

"Every day she is reminded of the trauma of what happened and of what might have been," she said. "It will never end for her."

The woman said the offender might not have had a legal obligation to confess he shook the baby, but he had a moral responsibility.

"The right thing to do would have been to have admitted it at the time," she said.

Defence witness Kenneth Byrne, a clinical psychologist, told the court the man had an intellectual impairment and suffered from a major affective disorder.

  Dr Byrne said the man told him he felt guilty about what happened and he had "to live with that every day".

"He said to me 'In the end it's not good enough. I could have rung someone, I could have called my mum. It was the wrong thing to do.'"

He said those thoughts were impressive for someone with the offender's mental capacity.

"I re-established in my own mind his view of contrition over what happened," Dr Byrne said.

Chief Justice Helen Murrell ordered a report on the child's medical condition be prepared ahead of a court appearance next month.

She will hand down her sentence on November 14.