‘Punishment enough’: Judge discharges mum over baby’s bath death

A grieving mother has been discharged without conviction after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of her 11-month-old son who died unattended in a bath.

The tired mum had left two of her young children unsupervised in a bathroom when tragedy struck last year.

The two boys had been playing outside before the woman – who has permanent name suppression – placed them in a bath tub and turned the shower on.

Today in the High Court at Gisborne, Justice Francis Cooke said normally the mother pulled the plug out of the tub every time.

But that day she must have been distracted and failed to so, he said.

Leaving the water running, the woman began doing other household chores including washing, mopping and dishes.

The older brother called out from the bath several times but the mum did not register it was a cause for alarm.

It took between 16 and 24 minutes for the bath tub to fill.

When the woman returned the younger boy was lying face down and unresponsive.

She grabbed him out and attempted to do CPR.

The 11-month-old was admitted to intensive care at Starship children’s hospital where investigations showed that he had sustained non-survivable brain damage.

Justice Cooke said unfortunately tragic cases like this happened from time to time.

The judge considered three similar cases in which the accidental death of a child had occurred during a period of inattention, in two of the cases the mothers were discharged without conviction.

Justice Cooke said one of those case involved the same kind of mind “blanking”.

“You had noted that the plug was in the hole, and that you needed to take it out. But you simply failed to do so as you usually do.”

As in those three other cases, she had made a mistake, Justice Cooke said.

“Parents make mistakes all the time,” he said.

“The fact that it had such tragic consequences here does not mean it wasn’t just a mistake.”

For a parent the pain and ongoing distress arising from the loss of the child was punishment enough, he said.

The judge deemed a conviction was not necessary when the woman had appeared in court acknowledging before her community that she made a mistake that resulted in the death of her child.

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