Wicked stepmother forces child to sleep in filthy room
A LITTLE girl is forced to sleep in filthy sheets on a small mattress in a dirty room under the stairs, surrounded by animal faeces.
Her step siblings had a room, proper beds, clothing and toys in a five-bedroom house in the Mackay region.
But this girl had just a mattress on a concrete floor in a basement room with painted concrete walls.
Under the care of her stepmother, the child, aged eight to 10, was often sent to school dirty, wearing old pyjamas and with just slices of bread in her lunch box.
Mackay District Court heard her little body was malnourished and thin, with her collar bone sharply poking from her skin.
The facts sound like something out of a twisted, disturbing fairytale.
The stepmother, who had three children of her own, deliberately treated the victim child in such a vile way for 19 months until police stepped in.
But her cruel behaviour went further - twice she was violent with the little girl, once strangling her in anger.
Crown Prosecutor Steph Gallagher said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, held the child's neck with both hands and "squeezed so hard (she) couldn't breathe".
Another time, in December 2017, she whacked the girl on the back of the head and back hard with a wooden spoon, causing her to bruise and bleed.
The little girl, then 10, cried and blamed herself for not feeding the dogs properly.
Ms Gallagher said the woman then threw the child in a cold bath before sending her to school in old pyjamas where teachers saw the injuries and phoned police.
When officers spoke to the woman, she blamed the child saying the little girl often forgot her lunch or that her being dirty was a sign she was happy because she had been playing.
"This is in my submission a disgusting way to treat anyone let alone a child," Ms Gallagher said, adding it was somewhat "malicious conduct" in that the woman treated her stepdaughter different to her own biological children.
The court heard the house was dirty and the little girl told police there was often animal faeces around the sides of her room. When police searched the home, an officer described a "foul stench" coming from her room.
The crown pushed for "not less than" five years jail for the stepmother, 29, who pleaded guilty to child cruelty, strangulation and assault with a weapon between April 2016 and December 2017.
But defence barrister Stephanie Williams argued for three years to be suspended after one because the woman had proactively taken steps towards her own rehabilitation since being charged.
Those steps included 20 session with a psychologist about her parenting behaviour.
"She admits she had poor parenting skills particularly in relation to her stepdaughter," Ms Williams said.
The court heard she had been in a relationship with the child's father for two years and claimed there was domestic violence.
"She was too afraid to seek help and didn't know where to seek it," Ms Williams said.
The father worked away a lot, leaving her to deal with the child and "she didn't cope with that".
Chief Judge Brian Devereaux said the child "was old enough to appreciate the horror of what was happening to her" and she blamed herself.
"Your conduct to her was not just disgraceful and abhorrent but has had that effect on her," Judge Devereaux said, also acknowledging the woman regretted not being able to "provide the kind of parenting she needed".
"But the thing is, there must have been a deliberate decision to treat this child differently.
"Your treatment of this child was appalling and criminal."
Judge Devereaux said there were promising signs of her rehabilitation, but he was given no explanation why she treated this child differently "and therefore how the community can be confident it won't happen again".
The woman was jailed for three and a half years. She will be able to apply for parole on August 23 next year.