Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of child abuse
A Sydney dad has been slammed by a judge while being sentenced for failing to provide medical assistance to his toddler stepson, who was violently assaulted by his mother before his death.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty by a jury at trial earlier this year of two offences including failing to provide for a child causing a danger of serious injury and failing to provide for a child causing a danger of death.
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He was found not guilty of a manslaughter.
On Friday, in the Gosford District Court, the man was sentenced to four years in prison, with a non-parole period of three years.
However, due to time already spent in custody in prison and in immigration detention, the man has already served the entirety of his sentence.
The charges related to two separate incidents in 2018 in which the man’s stepson, who was aged two at the time, was physically assaulted by his biological mother, the man’s then partner.
The mother pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced last year to a minimum of 10 years and eight months behind bars.
In the first incident, which occurred in June or July 2018, about two months before his death, the toddler was grabbed by his hair and thrown across a room, suffering a broken tibia.
Although the man was not present during that assault, Judge Justin Smith found he did not provide the boy with timely medical care for the injury.
“(The child) … was entirely dependent upon the offender and (his mother) for his medical needs,” the judge said.
“The leg injury was serious … the need for medical attention was obvious and the offender knew this and yet, over a period of four to five weeks did nothing to obtain what was readily available medical attention.”
On August 3, 2018, after the man had come home for the day, his partner inflicted a “violent and sustained assault” on the toddler, causing severe internal injuries.
At the time of the assault, the man had been in his bedroom and could hear the assault, Judge Smith said.
“She struck him repeatedly using her hand, a sandal and/or a belt. She was yelling,” the judge said.
“At one point, (the child) was sitting on the floor, unable to stand up and walk and (she) dragged him to make him walk.
“(The child) was crying loudly, coughing, and sneezing during the assault.”
Following the assault, the woman took the child to her father’s house before her father told her to take the child to hospital.
Upon arrival at the hospital, the child was “clinically dead”.
A post-mortem examination revealed he had a number of serious injuries, some of which were old.
They included fractures to his skull, shoulder and sternum, significant bruising to his head and face and bruising on his lungs.
However, the injuries that caused the child’s death were lacerations to his liver that caused significant internal bleeding.
“The child was beaten mercilessly by his mother in a very small unit to the extent that he was bleeding and unable to walk,” the judge said.
“The injury, particularly to the liver, was very painful and (the child) was crying.
“All of this made it obvious that the child required immediate medical assistance and yet throughout the period up until the death of the child the offender did nothing and was grossly reckless in his failure.
“The gross abuse of the child by his mother only served to bring into sharper focus the offender’s own responsibility for obtaining the necessities of life for (the child).”
Smith found the man had no mental conditions at the time of the offence and lacked remorse.
In a letter he wrote to the court, the man said he had time to reflect on the “accusations and the neglect of my kids” and said he hoped “this change will be for the better” because he still considers himself a “role model to millions of people as family, a parent and a human being”.
Smith said he found the letter difficult to understand and could not conclude that the man had a real understanding that what he did was wrong or about its impact on the child.
“The letter is, ultimately, no more than an expression of self-pity and … it suggests that any prospect of true rehabilitation must be significantly guarded,” the judge said.
Smith also rejected a submission from the man’s lawyers the letter showed a level of confusion about what he did.
“It is frankly impossible to believe that somebody who sat and watched the evidence of witness after witness over the course of twelve weeks describe the injuries to his son could not understand what impact his failure to act and to provide medical care to his son had, and further why this was wrong,” the judge said.
“The evidence also included photographs of the bruised and beaten body of the dead child and images of his previously broken bones.”
The man who came to Australia from Iran in 2013 has been in immigration detention since October 2019, when he was released from custody on bail.
Having served his entire sentence, he remains in immigration detention, awaiting the outcome of an appeal on an application for a protection visa, which has previously been rejected.