Friday, September 5, 2008

Mentally ill mum pulled out baby's fingernails

A MELBOURNE mother has been found not guilty of forcibly removing her baby's fingernails by reason of mental impairment.

The baby's injuries came to light when the 22-year-old mother took her to Frankston Hospital in April, 2006, the County Court was told.

Crown prosecutor Simon Cooper said hospital staff contacted child protection workers after they noticed the four-month-old girl's fingernails were removed and other injuries on her body. A doctor who examined the baby concluded the missing nails were forcibly pulled out, possibly using tweezers or a similar object.

Lesions also were found on her scalp and her elbow was injured, Mr Cooper said.

The court was told the woman told a child protection worker she used her fingers to pull out most of her baby's nails, but could not say why she did it.

"I don't know, I wasn't thinking. I was going to cut them," she told the worker.

"She cried for a little bit, just for a little while.

"No, I wasn't trying to hurt her."

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty to one count of intentionally causing serious injury and one of recklessly causing serious injury.

The court was told she had struggled with motherhood, and while desperate to care and nurture her child, her mild intellectual disability affected her reasoning.

The baby is now in care and her mother sees her once a month.

The court was told the woman had the onset of autism, but no other psychiatric disorder.

Judge Liz Gaynor found the woman not guilty of the offence because of mental impairment.

She said the woman was responding to being told her baby's nails were too long, but her intellectual disability made her incapable of realising her actions were wrong.

The case was adjourned until October so the woman could be assessed to become a client of disability services.


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