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Judgment handed down in DPP v Darren Weston
10 October 2016
The Court of Appeal [President Maxwell, Justice Tate and Justice Osborn] today allowed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions against the sentence imposed on Darren Weston for negligently causing serious injury to a four week old infant and for recklessly causing injury to the infant’s older sister, aged three. The victims were the children of Mr Weston’s partner.
Mr Weston, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 15 months. The Court of Appeal resentenced him to four years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years and six months.
President Maxwell and Justice Osborn (with whom Justice Tate agreed) said:
The duty of the parent has two key aspects: to provide the child with what it needs for its healthy development, and to protect it against harm. What occurs in a case such as the present, of course, is not merely a failure to protect the child from harm. It is the active causing of harm — albeit by negligent conduct — which makes the breach of duty so grave.
It is convenient to deal now with [Mr Weston’s] culpability. As we have said, the vulnerability of an infant is immediately apparent to any adult of ordinary sensibility, whether or not the adult has had any previous parenting experience. [Mr Weston] had had extensive parenting experience, there having been four children of his [previous] marriage. He knew perfectly well what care was required, and what a high responsibility he carried in caring for a baby.
The infant victim suffered a fractured skull and fractured ribs, and brain haemorrhages. She had a seizure soon after arrival at hospital. The medical evidence showed that she would be at risk of seizures for the rest of her life.
The Court said that the victim would
live her life in the constant knowledge of that risk and is likely to experience stress and anxiety as a result. She will also have to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid risk factors such as alcohol. There is also the risk of a decline in cognitive function and intelligence. It is, in our view, a very serious thing to place a child at lifelong risk of this kind.