Badly malnourished and dehydrated to the extent he was at risk of death is how a doctor described a baby boy who was taken into care after he was neglected by his parents.
The boy’s 45-year-old father and 23-year-old mother have both pleaded guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to causing grievous bodily harm by neglect.
It is the first time anyone in the ACT has been charged with the offence.
The boy was born prematurely in January 2015.
At the time, his parents agreed to take part in a support program, but by March they had dropped out.
It was not until nearly a year later that the family came to the attention of welfare workers again.
After several failed attempts, the workers gained access to the couple’s home on Christmas Eve 2015, let in by the boy’s father, who had told them the boy was feeding normally, eating solids and even crawling.
But the workers were so concerned about his low weight and slow development they removed him from the home.
The doctor who assessed him found he was underweight, showed no emotion, had serious dermatitis, and an ulcer in his mouth.
The doctor said at the point the baby boy was found, he was potentially less than two days from death.
“The condition that [the baby] was found in on December 24th, 2015, placed him at risk of serious illness or death,” the doctor said.
“If not found and provided large volumes of fluid on December 24th, 2015, it is expected that [the baby] would have developed complications … such as seizure, brain damage and even death within 24 to 48 hours.”
The doctor found the boy was unable to crawl or even sit up unaided.
His foster carer found he was unable to eat pureed food, suggesting he was not used to eating solid food.
Parents change plea, admitting to neglect
A police statement tendered to the court detailed the neglect the baby boy suffered.
“During his first year of life, [the baby] was consistently not supplied with proper food and hydration, and his physical and emotional development was grossly neglected,” it said.
“The care given to [the boy] by both [his mother] and [his father] whilst he was in their care was grossly deficient, and caused serious harm to his physical state.”
The pair initially pleaded not guilty and were to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
But today both pleaded guilty.
The court noted their sentencing hearing may take some time because it is the first time anyone in the ACT has been charged with causing grievous bodily harm in such circumstances.
The maximum penalty is five years in jail, and the pair will be sentenced next year.