A young father who continually assaulted his baby daughter before she lay dead in her cot for a week will spend at least seven years and three months behind bars.
But in the South Australian Supreme Court, Justice Tim Stanley said he would take a merciful approach to the girl’s mother, who could have done more to protect her baby, and placed her on a two-year good behaviour bond.
The mother, now 20, but 17 at the time, and the father, now 22, originally were charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to the criminal neglect of baby Ebony.
The four-month-old infant, found dead in their Adelaide home in November 2011, had suffered more than 50 recent and healing injuries, including numerous fractures.
The judge on Thursday said the parents owed their daughter a duty of care, but failed to seek medical attention when her condition deteriorated into a vegetative state in the week prior to her death.
Ebony then lay dead in her cot for a week before authorities were alerted.
The judge previously concluded that the father was solely responsible for assaults on Ebony.
While he had admitted shaking, squeezing and throwing her on the bed when he became frustrated with her crying, the judge said he still refused to accept full responsibility for the assaults on Ebony.
After the mother became pregnant, the couple moved from Goulburn in NSW to Adelaide where they knew no one but where they received help from various organisations.
As late as October, Ebony was seen to be healthy but in the lead-up to her death the couple missed and cancelled medical visits and check-ups.
Ebony became unresponsive, barely moved, did not cry and stared blankly.
“Inexplicably, you did not seek medical treatment for your daughter,” the judge said.
He said the father, who was violent and controlling towards his girlfriend, also obstructed her from obtaining help as he feared his assaults on Ebony would be disclosed.
The mother’s life had been “piteously sad, desolate and void of love and affection”, the judge said.
She suffered an abusive childhood, was taken into care at 11, bullied at school, lived in numerous foster homes until she was 15 and had been pressured by her boyfriend into moving to Adelaide.
But he said she was not completely helpless to take some steps to protect Ebony.
In imposing the bond, the judge noted her extreme remorse and her having served 10 months in detention and 18 months on strict home detention.
He set a maximum nine years for the father.