The mother of a Hunter Valley girl who was tortured and murdered by her stepfather will spend at least 18 months in jail, after a judge noted she too was a victim of terror.
Detectives found the 12-year-old girl known as CN dead in her bed in a Hunter Valley home in September 2015.
The Supreme Court heard she had been bashed for three days by her stepfather, who can only be referred to as JK.
The girl was shackled, tied to a bed and beaten with bed slats, belts, electrical cords and other objects.
JK was sentenced to a maximum 37-year jail term.
The mother, known as TP, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and has been sentenced to four years in jail, with an 18-month non-parole period.
She told the court she accepted she played a role in her daughter’s death, after years of being subjected to domestic violence at the hands of JK.
TP said she failed to protect her daughter from four years of assaults, failed to provide her with medical attention, and failed to alert authorities about the mistreatment.
The girl had 50 visible injuries including extensive scarring, described as being similar to someone being attacked with a blow torch.
During her sentencing hearing TP said she was devastated she did not act.
“I can’t forgive myself because I should have done something. I feel empty inside. Part of me has died,” she said.
TP said after being repeatedly bashed by JK, she felt afraid to speak out.
She said JK was a controlling alcoholic who had previously threatened to kill her or bash her children if she told anyone about the abuse.
Judge says mother also a victim of terror
Justice Peter Hamill presided over the cases of TP and JK.
He said JK’s level of violence was extreme, noting there were no words to describe the photographs of the girl’s battered and lifeless body.
“The history of violence established that the events were not isolated, but formed part of a consistent pattern of cruel and barbaric abuse of a helpless child,” Justice Hamill said.
He accepted TP had post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered from an extreme case of battered woman syndrome.
The court also heard JK infected TP with HIV and forced her to have two abortions.
Justice Hamill noted CN’s sister NZ had also been repeatedly bashed, with police officers saying she also suffered scarring that looked like she had been attacked with a blow torch.
“The circumstances leading to CN’s death would be very nearly incomprehensible to most people,” Justice Hamill said.
“It was the culmination of a number of years of terror inflicted upon two innocent children. The evidence establishes that the present offender was also the victim of that terror.
“Like her two young children, TP was repeatedly beaten by her partner.
“The evidence of this comes not only from the offender herself but also from her 10-year-old daughter (NZ), who was fortunate enough to survive.”
Judge says jail the only option, despite mother posing no risk
During sentencing submissions, crown prosecutor Lee Carr said a custodial sentence was the only option for TP.
Justice Hamill agreed.
“Having considered all possible alternatives, which essentially comprise a fine, a bond or a community service order, I am satisfied that no penalty other than imprisonment is appropriate,” he said.
“In sentencing TP, I must always keep in mind that her gross and sustained neglect contributed to or caused the death of an innocent and defenceless child.
“Every sentencing exercise in homicide cases begins and ends with the reality that human life has been taken away.
“The law must protect human life and must vindicate the dignity of the victims of crimes such as the present.”
But Justice Hamill noted TP did not represent a risk to the community, and recommended she be released at the end of her 18-month non-parole period.
He also recommended that the Department of Corrective Services ensure her medical and psychological needs be assessed at the first opportunity, and that she have access to her medications.
TP will be eligible for parole on September 22, 2019.