Name kept secret in cannabis-oil case

By Kaysha Brownlie

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The identity of a Napier mother who delayed telling medical staff her daughter had eaten cannabis oil will remain a secret.

The woman, who was sentenced on Friday to 12 months' supervision, stood in Napier District Court's dock dabbing at her eyes with her lips trembling as Judge Geoff Rea recounted what happened last July when she arrived home to find her baby alone and vomiting green foam.

He said the woman had left her then 11-month-old daughter in the care of her then partner - the baby's father - and his associates while she nipped out to the supermarket to buy milk formula.

She returned home to find the baby's father in the kitchen, bagging methamphetamine with his associates. Her daughter was in the lounge, alone and pulling herself up on a chair.

Her baby began vomiting green foam and the mother wiped green tar from around her baby's mouth and nose and retrieved a plastic capsule from her mouth.

She confronted the group in the kitchen and one of them admitted leaving cannabis oil capsules on a chair - the baby had consumed one of them.

Judge Rea said the woman's culpability came after the child had consumed the drugs when she failed to seek medical attention for her.

He told the court the woman had asked the group in the kitchen whether she should call an ambulance and chose not to when one of them told her the child would sleep it off. The judge said the woman had chosen to take the advice of people who were involved in drugs and who would have no interest in calling authorities to the address because of that.

She earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of ill treating/neglecting a child under the age of 18. The summary states the baby fell asleep in her mother's arms before they both went to bed, only to wake at 9pm to her child with a high temperature and vomiting again.

After 20 minutes had passed and after trying to call the baby's father, the mother called 111 for an ambulance. She told police she called the ambulance because she was worried her daughter might die.

The woman did not tell ambulance staff why her daughter was sick. She also chose not to tell hospital staff. It was only when a member of her family arrived at the hospital that she revealed her daughter had consumed cannabis oil, about four and a half hours after she had rung the ambulance.

She told police that although she did not take drugs around her daughter, she was a regular meth user at the time of the incident and was often coming down from a high when her daughter was in her care.

She admitted she had taken the drug the previous night and told police she "wasn't processing things at the time" and was selfish because she did not want to get in trouble.

Her lawyer James Rainger told the court his client should not be named because of the permanency of media.

Mr Rainger said it was not the baby's fault and it would not be fair to expose her to this.

Judge Rea said it was fair to say a "good deal of water had gone under the bridge" since the offending last July. "The obvious victim is your child."

Naming the girl's mother would "revictimise" her in years to come as media continued to circulate online, he said.

He told the woman that although she had been granted permanent name suppression, many people would not be able to understand how she could put her child in that position.

Her daughter, and another baby she had very recently given birth to, was in the care of another family member.

Judge Rea said the two children were now protected and it appeared systems were in place to help all involved.

He also ordered the woman to undergo a drug and alcohol programme, a parenting programme and any others that probation ordered her to do.

Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman for child abuse, Scott Guthrie, said the woman had a duty to care for and protect her child but instead chose to protect those who were involved in drugs.

"This could well have been a case of attempted manslaughter."

He said the 12-month supervision sentence was not enough. "Fair enough she took the baby to hospital, but she lied to the hospital staff. They can't treat something they aren't aware of."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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