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WA: Couple jailed for "cruel and bizarre" child neglect

07 Nov 2008 3:05 PM

PERTH, Nov 7 AAP - A six-year-old boy who was starved and locked in a portable cot in a dark garage, would have died if the "cruel and bizarre" treatment continued, a Perth judge says.

His foster mother, 34, was today jailed for two years and eight months for reckless neglect of the boy.

The District Court was told how the woman's five other children were well cared for and wanted for nothing while the abuse continued.

Her husband, 31, the father of three of the six children, received a maximum jail term of three years and two months for assaulting the boy.

"If the situation had continued much longer, then (the boy) may have died,"Judge Frederick Speight said.

"As a six-year-old boy, he had no capacity to resist your cruelty."

The couple kept the boy in a portacot with a lid made of plywood and tied it down with rope threaded through holes in the covering.

"This was designed to prevent (the boy) getting out of the cot," Judge Speight said.

"The only light ... was sunlight coming under the garage door."

The boy was given one or two meals a day, water, a screwdriver and saucepanto bang together when he needed to toilet.

When he was found by authorities in November 2007, the boy weighed 12kg, had several bruises and lacked the muscle strength to pull himself out of thecot.

His body mass was so low that two months after going in to new care he suffered mild cardiac failure and returned to hospital.

The court was told the woman took guardianship of the child soon after his birth because his mother, a friend of hers, could not care for him.

She had become "obsessed" with diagnosing the child with an eating disorder, even after child health experts had cleared him of the condition.

The judge today read from the woman's police statement, where she describedresenting the boy because he was not one of her natural children.

She made his bedroom in the shed so he was out of the way of the family, the court was told.

The woman gave attention to her natural children "at the extreme expense of(the boy)".

"I am satisfied that you both had decided ... you no longer wanted (the boy) as part of the household," Judge Speight said.

"You were both able to access appropriate medical assistance for you and your other children," he said.

In previous hearings, prosecutor Linda Petrusa told how the other five children in the household wanted for nothing, with stuffed toys and TVs in their bedrooms.

Psychological reports showed the woman's husband identified as an alcoholicand had depression.

The foster mother told a psychologist that she was brought up with siblingswho did not share the same father and had suffered as a result.

The woman will be eligible for parole after one year and four months, whileher husband must serve a minimum of one year and six months in prison.

The five other children have all been placed in state care.

AAP jpssmn =0A