A WA couple have been jailed for abusing and neglecting a young daughter they adopted from overseas, including beating her, isolating her from the family and making her sleep in a shipping container during the coldest months of the year.
- The girl was about 12 at the time of the abuse and had to wash outside in a bucket
- She would repeatedly attend school smelling of urine, the court heard
- The man and woman must serve half of a four-year jail term before being released
The couple, who cannot be identified, were found guilty by a District Court jury of charges including engaging in conduct knowing that it could result in harm to a child.
The court was told the girl was about 12 years old at the time of the abuse.
The couple had other children, including another adopted daughter, but the girl was treated very differently from them, including being excluded from watching television and going on family outings.
She was seen by neighbours sometimes sitting alone in bushes, standing in the rain for hours or running laps of a paddock, and was made to wash in a bucket outside and to do what was described as “tough” physical work, such as weeding.
For three months in winter the girl was made to sleep in a shipping container on their property, which was locked and she said she was not given any blankets.
The girl said she used to be beaten with items such as a tennis racquet and a rubber hose and was also verbally abused.
“I want to kill you right now … your head will go into a thousand pieces,” the court heard the woman once said to her.
Girl attended school smelling of urine
The court heard on the girl’s first day at a new school, the adoptive mother told her teacher she would cause trouble and try to undermine him — a comment she repeated to the principal.
But in their evidence to the trial, the teacher and the principal described the child as “happy, cheerful, bright and wanting to improve”, and said towards the end of each day she would become anxious.
The girl would repeatedly attend school smelling of urine and on occasions the principal would have to change her clothing.
The mother claimed the child had wet herself on purpose and said she was being made to wear her wet underwear as punishment.
The abuse came to light when the girl went to the home of one of her school friends, and their father noticed the smell coming from her and contacted the authorities.
Shipping container ‘unfit’ for humans
The court heard the girl had an impoverished background, and had been left traumatised by her biological parents and from the time she spent in an orphanage.
Judge Alan Troy did accept that she had caused difficulties for the couple, but said instead of seeking help from child protection authorities, they committed offences which he described as a breach of trust.
“You were entrusted to look after her … you must have known she was suffering emotional abuse and neglect,” he said.
Judge Troy said the shipping container she was locked in “was unfit for human habitation” and she was in there “on what would have been the coldest months of the year”.
He accepted that they the couple were of previous good character, describing as “laudable” contributions they had made to the community, including foster care.
But he said the offences were serious and the victim was very young and vulnerable.
The man and the woman were both sentenced to four years jail, and they will have to serve at least half of the term before they can be released.