Baby L’s abuser gets 10 years in prison

2015-01-20 13:37

A Pretoria North man who abused his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter to such an extent that she is now in a vegetative state has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Sentencing the 37-year-old divorced father of two children in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today, Judge Nico Coetzee said this should serve as a warning to others who abused children that they could expect severe sentences.

Baby L was already in a coma when she was rushed to the Akasia hospital on December 30 last year.

Parts of her brain had already died and she had a fractured hip, blood in her abdomen and fluid in her lungs from a near-drowning.

She also had a bruised kidney, a serious injury to her pancreas as well as old and new bruises all over her body.

Baby L was now in a vegetative state in an institution, unable to feed herself, walk or talk.

Coetzee last week found the businessperson guilty of child abuse, but acquitted him on charges of attempted murder and depriving the child, known as Baby L, of medical care.

Baby L’s 20-year-old mother was acquitted on all of the charges.

The court found there was no evidence that she had abused her daughter or allowed her boyfriend to abuse Baby L.

Coetzee said it was probable that she had not even been aware of the abuse because she had left most of the child care to her boyfriend and was, according to her domestic worker, more interested in sleeping after working night shifts than in caring for her child.

The Judge said Baby L no longer had a life. She just existed.

“He had robbed the little girl of her life. She will not and cannot experience the joys of life.

“L could not defend herself against the accused. She was barely two years old and trusted the accused.

“He bathed her, bought her presents and cared for her. He violated that trust. Why he did so was never revealed to the court. The abuse became worse as time went by.

“It is severely aggravating that it happened in the house where she should have been safe.

“The accused takes no responsibility for the crime. He never at any stage showed any remorse.

“It is aggravating that he has three previous convictions – one for assault and two for malicious damage to property.

“All three previous convictions had violence as an element,” Coetzee said.

The man was sentenced in 2008 to a R3 000 fine and given a suspended sentence on the charges.

He was also declared unfit to possess a firearm.

Coetzee said the accused had been through the legal process, but seemed to have learnt nothing from his experience because he once again in 2013 (when he abused Baby L) committed a violent crime.

“The interests of the community demand that child abuse is severely punished.

“The community regards attacks on defenceless children as abhorrent and rightly so. The abuse of women and children is on the increase in the community. Almost not a day goes by that the media does not report about yet another incident.

“People who trample the rights of defenceless members of society in this manner must be severely punished.

“The defence argued that the accused have R100 000 for a fine. In my opinion his crime is so serious that a fine would not be appropriate.

“The sentence must lead to the accused’s rehabilitation so that when he comes back to the community one day he no longer poses a danger to the future of children,” he said.

Coetzee earlier rejected the man’s claims that Baby L had fallen down a flight of stairs and off a washing machine.

He accepted medical evidence that Baby L had been abused, was hit on the head with an object and was probably hit on the abdomen with something like a broomstick.

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