Belfast Telegraph

Mother used salt to poison toddler

By Michael Donnelly

A young mother who admitted poisoning her disabled daughter has walked free from court.

The woman, who laced the toddler's food with salt, wept openly in court as her 18-month jail term was suspended for two years.

The court was told that the little girl was brought to the hospital in a lifeless state. She recovered following treatment.

Antrim Crown Court Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told the 25-year old: "If ever there was a case that could truly be described as exceptional, this is it."

The judge, sitting at Belfast's Laganside Court, said: "I can see no benefit to the public at large, to your child or your former partner to impose an immediate custodial sentence."

The Co Antrim woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her young daughter, pleaded guilty to a charge of administering poison to her then two-year-old daughter in January 2010.

Judge Miller said her actions that day were "quite clearly inexplicable". But the judge also said that psychiatric reports tend to suggest the woman was "perhaps subconsciously" trying to draw attention to herself following the break-up with her partner.

Prosecution QC Richard Weir told the court the youngster was rushed to hospital in an almost lifeless state, her body limp and grey, and it was "clear to all she was very sick".

It was quickly established that the little girl was suffering from a case of salt poisoning.

Mr Weir said that at one stage the mother produced a jar of food which, when examined, had 12 times the recommended dose of salt content. However, he described this as "somewhat of a red herring" as, when the food examined from the same batch was tested, none of the jars was found to be contaminated.

Defence lawyer Paul Ramsey QC described it as a "tragic case for all concerned".

He added that the woman was always seen as a caring and devoted mother and the child "is the centre of her life".

Mr Ramsey said that on the day, there was a lot going on including problems between her and her partner, and that all these problems had come together.

He said the Crown accepted and made the concession that the administration of the salt was done in a reckless manner and that she did not intend the resulting consequences.

"This was a simple, isolated act... a terrible incident... and the real penalty she will pay is that she will not now be the primary carer of her daughter."

The lawyer said he accepted that the custodial threshold had been passed, but added it was an unusual and quite exceptional case which could allow the court not to make the sentence immediate, but rather suspend it.

Belfast Telegraph


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