2 Jul 2009, Comments (9)

We’ve been here before

Author: Helen

A couple are living in the same house. A child dies of catastrophic neglect. The mother is a prescription drug abuser and unable to cope with a (special needs) child, with heaven knows what other things going on, but clearly quite mentally incompetent.

The mother is charged with murder, but the father is charged only with manslaughter.

Where is this feeling of deja vu coming from?

Oh yes, this.

One year later:

The father’s defence was that his wife was the only person who could feed and care for their daughter because of her autism, and the mother had never indicated there was a problem with the girl.

What. a. crock.

The father is completely invisible in this account, except as “and her husband” at the beginning of the article. I did see a brief glimpse of him on the news, face pixillated, blaming the Department of Community Services. There’s a certain type of person that will find someone else to blame, no matter how damning the evidence.

So, let me get this straight: you’re an adult living in the same house with your married or de-facto long term partner, and your partner is not coping to the extent where she allows one child to die slowly over a period of weeks or months (with comcomitant disappearance of child, urine stench, etc); you demonstrate a shocking and callous lack of care towards both your daughter and her obviously unwell mother. And you’re considered less culpable.

I’d say he failed both of them. But it seems the Law here in Australia is still blindly essentialist. Or an Ass. Or both.

Comments (9) »

  • Frances says:

    This is so immensely, gutwrenchingly sad. Not only that a child has died as a result of negligence but that a person can be left without support from their partner and then be considered more responsible for their child’s death than their partner, who responds to their distress by medicating them, which suggests greater involvement in their drug abuse than o/w indicated. Painfully wrong.

  • M-H says:

    Say it loud, sister. I am so angry about this I can hardly bear to think of it. There must be a special kind of hell for this man. They were both majorly FITH, and there is no way her punishment should be greater than his. And yes, DOCS should have acted too. They do bear some responsibility.

  • Helen says:

    I would say so, M-H (re. DOCS). But the one person who was not entitled to say it? Correct! 🙂

  • Without wishing to be a smarty.

    the options are:

    Both legally equally culpable.

    or

    One is more culpable.

    The law can get a bit precise here.

    I won’t mention the media blaming swine flu.

  • It does appear I’ve conflated two cases.

    I blame my female partner.

  • Helen says:

    Throw the book at her, the rotter!
    What was the case that got blamed on swine flu?

  • Maggie Hall says:

    I, too was horrifed that a father was able to say “I had nothing to do with the child therefore I am less responsible.”

    I would have thought his duty of care was as strong as the mother’s.There is case law which says that if you assume the care of another and then fail to care to a reasonable standard, then you may be liable, even though if you had not assumed the care you would not be liable for any death resulting.
    But these are BOTH her parents.
    I am more upset that, as a community, we can allow children to starve to death before our eyes.
    We are all responsible for little Shellay’s death

  • […] Helen at Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony notes, “We’ve been here before”. The mother is charged with murder, but the father is charged only with manslaughter. […]

  • […] Helen at Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony notes, “We’ve been here before”. The mother is charged with murder, but the father is charged only with manslaughter. […]

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