24 May 2017

Mother who fed child harmful drugs avoids jail sentence

5:41 pm on 24 May 2017

A mother who deliberately fed her daughter powerful anti-psychotic drugs and anti-convulsants, causing seizures and hallucinations, has avoided a jail sentence.

white pills (generic)

Photo: 123RF

The woman, whose name has been suppressed to protect her victim, was sentenced today in the Wellington District Court on four charges of ill-treating a child.

Judge Denys Barry ordered her to serve six months' home detention and carry out 150 hours' community work.

He said the mother, who was a nurse, took the anti-psychotic drug Risperidone from the hospital she worked at and hid it in her daughter's yoghurt.

She also continued giving the child an anti-convulsant medication after doctors had told her to stop doing so.

"The child became incontinent, hallucinated and had difficulty with muscle control, resulting in slurred speech.

"The child was seen sleeping in school and was sent to the [sick bay] three to five times a week, sometimes for up to four hours.... [which] impacted on her relationship with other children and her learning."

Toxicology tests later revealed the presence of non-prescribed drugs in the girl's urine, which could have caused critical medical complications.

The woman admitted giving her daughter Risperidone and said she thought it had helped the child with stress and reduced her seizures.

Judge Barry said the catalyst for the woman's offending was a pregnancy with twins who did not survive to birth.

"While it was in a context of this fragile mental health at the time, compounded by unresolved grief, it was also compounded by alcohol abuse, which probably stemmed from the same genesis.

"That underlines the uniquely personal case we have, which is tied up with her mental ill health and to some extent a warped sense of doing the right thing by the child, by ongoing subterfuge behind the backs of her clinicians."

Judge Barry said there was no suggestion the woman had ill-treated her other children and she was described as having "genuine love and affection for all [of them]".

He said the offending had caused rifts in the woman's family, but her husband was supportive and the home detention sentence would be the most helpful outcome.

The judge said the woman could still not have contact with her children, except as authorised by the Family Court or Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children.