The mother of a baby who chewed on a bag of methamphetamine and who ended up distressed and barely sleeping or eating has today been sentenced to supervision.
And she was told by a judge: “You are lucky nothing happened to the wee one.”
The 11-month-old boy was only taken to hospital after an intercepted phone call the mother-of-two made to an “associate” in prison alerted authorities.
Oranga Tamariki staff then went to her home to check on the child’s welfare.
The 30-year-old Christchurch woman, who the Herald has chosen not to name to protect the identities of her children, was initially charged with ill-treatment of a child by not getting her 11-month-old son medical attention – and also of leaving her 7-year-old son without reasonable supervision and care.
But she later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of causing a criminal nuisance.
Christchurch District Court heard that she had been at a friend’s house with the young child in November 2019.
The boy was crawling on the floor when she noticed him chewing on something.
She removed it from his mouth and saw it was a small zip-lock plastic bag.
They went home and the child was put to bed.
The child attended his usual day-care centre the next day, where staff told the mother that he’d seemed “a bit off” and hadn’t eaten or slept all day.
She took the boy home and that evening phoned an associate who was in custody at Christchurch Men’s Prison.
She said she was at a friend’s house the previous day when he put what she believed was a point bag containing methamphetamine residue in his mouth. The baby had not been sleeping.
“Ever since I’ve had him at home he’s been going and going. At least he hasn’t been crying,” she said in the intercepted phone call, adding that he was showing symptoms similar to those of meth users.
Toxicology testing later confirmed the presence of methamphetamine and amphetamine in the boy’s bloodstream. However, the child did not suffer any ongoing or adverse medical issues.
When police officers went to the woman’s house in May this year, they found a 7-year-old home alone.
He told police that his mum had taken his little brother to prison to see his dad and it was okay as mum was watching him through a camera, the summary of facts says.
The boy became “visibly distressed” and asked officers to leave, saying he was not allowed to let anyone in.
When police checked with the prison, however, they confirmed the mother had not visited that day.
Later, when police caught up with the woman she was asked about the child consuming meth but “provided no explanation”.
Defence counsel Jennifer North said the woman had completed her final parenting course session this morning.
Judge Jim Large told the woman today: “You are lucky nothing happened to the wee one because of that material”.
“It plays havoc with adult systems, goodness knows what it could’ve done to your child’s system at 11 months,” he said.
When he first read the woman’s court file, the judge wondered how long he would have to send her to prison for.
But he praised her for the “big positive steps” she had since taken which would ultimately benefit her, her children, and the community.
He congratulated her on completing her parenting course and said her children would really benefit from that.
“Children learn from their environment,” Judge Large.
“If they go and see people in prison, they come to courts, it comes part of their usual world. It should not be part of a child’s usual world. They should be out doing what usual kids do.
“They shouldn’t know about prison. They shouldn’t know about courts. It’s up to you to give them an example.”
Although both her lawyer North and the Crown agreed that a sentence of supervision would be the best outcome for everyone concerned, the judge went a step further.
He sentenced her to 18 months of intensive supervision, plus 12 months’ judicial monitoring to keep him up to date with her progress. She must also attend any recommended treatment programmes deemed suitable.
“I want there to be a real programme for you and a real positive pathway so that your involvement with Oranga Tamariki can be constructive,” Judge Large said.