A SYDNEY woman who was severely mentally ill when she left her baby face down in a bathtub is already suffering a worse sentence than any judge could impose, a court has heard.
The 41-year-old woman, who had thought her daughter was a dwarf despite medical reassurances she was “normal” , left the room after the six-month-old fell off a seat into water at their inner west home in November 2010.
“The killing of the offender’s daughter by herself is perhaps the greatest punishment which might be imposed upon her,” defence barrister Peter Lange said at a NSW Supreme Court sentence hearing on Friday.
The woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, told a triple-zero operator her daughter had fallen out of a seat when she went to get shampoo and was underwater, according to the agreed statement of facts tendered to the court.
During the almost 11-minute phone conversation, the woman was repeatedly asked to enter the bathroom and help the baby but said: “I can’t go in there”.
Mr Lange submitted the mother, who did not respond to paramedics when they arrived, loved her daughter and was driven to act with “reckless indifference” by mental illness.
The mother was mentally ill when she left the bathroom after her six-month-old fell off a seat and into the water, the court heard.
The agreed facts show she had repeatedly asked for genetic testing of the baby and asked whether plastic surgery could be performed to remove skin tags near her ears.
One psychiatrist said the mother had been showing early symptoms of schizophrenia, while another said the concerns about her daughter’s health were delusional.
“Every time I look at her I think she’s a dwarf,” the mother said to medical staff.
“It’s affecting my bonding with her and everyone in the family… thinks I’m crazy.”
Mr Lange submitted the woman, who has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, should not be sentenced to jail.
Crown prosecutor Mark Hobart said a suspended jail sentence would be appropriate.
The woman had been found unfit to stand trial in 2014 but went on to face a murder trial after her condition improved.
The Crown accepted her manslaughter plea in March on the basis she was substantially impaired due to an abnormality of the mind.
She is due to be sentenced on May 19.