An Australian couple who fed their toddler a strict vegan diet that resulted in the child becoming so malnourished that she had no teeth will avoid jail time after a judge ruled that imprisoning them would deprive their children of an “important bond.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that New South Wales District Court Judge Sarah Huggett sentenced the couple to 18 months of “intensive corrections orders” rather than send them to jail. The Daily Wire previously reported that the child had not been vaccinated or even taken to a doctor since her birth and suffered from rickets.
“The reckless failure of these offenders to provide their daughter with the necessities of life in fact caused serious harm,” Huggett said during sentencing, according to the Herald.
The couple was arrested in April 2018 and earlier pleaded guilty to failing to provide for their child. The father is 35 years old and the mother is 33. Australian press can’t name them for legal reasons.
The child “was fed oats, potatoes, rice, tofu, bread, peanut butter and rice milk,” according to court documents reviewed by the Herald. For a snack, she was given a “mouthful of fruit or two sultanas.”
The mother told a forensic psychiatrist that she didn’t think her child was ill until the girl suffered a seizure in March 2018. The mother called paramedics who found the child “floppy,” with blue lips and eyes rolling back into her head.
“The child was severely malnourished, underweight and undersized, and delayed as far as age-appropriate milestones were concerned,” Huggett said in court.
The parents faced five years in jail, but will not serve such a sentence because of Huggett’s ruling.
The mother had previously claimed she was severely depressed after her daughter’s birth, but a psychologist disputed the claims. That psychologist told the court that the mother’s medical records showed no evidence of her depression, and an interview with the mother revealed the same.
Huggett said during sentencing that “it is the responsibility of every parent to ensure the diet they chose to provide to their children … is one that is balanced and contains sufficient essential nutrients and vitamins for optimum growth and development.” She also said that the mother’s alleged depression made it difficult for her to care for her child “to an extent.”
“I say ‘to an extent’ because this offence was committed over a substantial period of time,” Huggett said.
The father claimed he was not to blame because the mother “dictated” the child’s care. Huggett in May dismissed the father’s claims, saying he was an “educated man” who “could have picked her up and taken her to a doctor.”
During sentencing, Huggett further criticized the father, saying his “abandonment of his parental responsibility cannot be justified or excused on the basis that he was busy or preoccupied.”
It should have been obvious, Huggett said, to anyone that the child was unhealthy. At 20 months old, the girl couldn’t walk or talk and was the size of a 3-month old. Once medical staff determined the child was malnourished, she spent a month in the hospital and was then taken care of by a foster parent. Six months after her seizure, the little girl could crawl and had put on 13 pounds.
The little girl and her two older brothers are now being cared for by their maternal grandmother in Queensland.