A North Otago woman who poisoned her child while he was in hospital may yet be locked up, after the Crown appealed her sentence.
The mother, aged in her 30s, got 11 months’ home detention when she appeared before the High Court at Auckland in August.
She has now broken her silence, allowing her lawyer, Julie-Anne Kincade, to speak to the Otago Daily Times.
She said it had been an “extraordinarily lengthy process” just getting to sentencing and now the defendant faced more uncertainty.
“It was obviously a relief to reach that point and have the matter concluded and now for that to not be the case and for the Crown to be seeking to appeal … has been very difficult and challenging,” Kincade said.
The offending began in August 2019 when the boy was in Dunedin Hospital and had been cleared for discharge.
Over the following days the mother poisoned her son with antidepressants and eye drops, actions she took after numerous internet searches of the consequences.
The victim was later airlifted to Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland where he was put in an induced coma.
The administering of harmful chemicals continued until the defendant’s crimes were uncovered through toxicology results.
At sentencing, Crown prosecutor Mark Harborow suggested a prison term of up to four years was appropriate.
While that would be opposed, Kincade said the most devastating penalty for her client lay elsewhere.
“She’s had no contact with her children and … that’s the biggest part of this punishment,” she said.
“It of course is a natural consequence of what she’s done, but it’s had huge repercussions and is extremely painful for her.”
However, the child’s father was relieved to learn of the appeal.
“I was just blown away originally from what she got,” he said. “At least there’s some hope of a bit of justice.”
The defendant had been diagnosed with Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA), better known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Kincade said her client had not wanted to harm her son.
“Usually when people hurt children it’s because they’re angry or frustrated. Those factors aren’t present here. She was very overwhelmed as a mother and she was not coping,” Kincade said.
The disorder can result in caregivers committing such acts so they and their victim remain in the supportive medical environment.
Kincade said prisons were equipped to offer addiction treatment to inmates, usually in a group setting, but not the bespoke therapy the defendant required.
The defendant would probably be shunned by other prisoners, too, she said.
“Because of the nature of her crimes, in a women’s prison she’d be on her own a lot for her own safety.”
The Court of Appeal had not yet set a date for the hearing.
Until then, the woman would continue serving the home detention term with family in Canterbury.
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