Baby Michael sentencing postponed

2012-01-27 19:43
Johannesburg - Sentencing of a man and woman convicted of assaulting their baby in 2003 was postponed in the Johannesburg Regional Court on Friday.

Magistrate Frans Booyens postponed the matter to March 28 as the social workers' reports were not ready.

"Both the defence and prosecution are entitled to present evidence," he said.

This would allow both sides to petition for lighter and harsher sentences respectively.

Prosecutor Carina Coetzee said that Prof Lorna Jacklin would be called to describe the injuries' effects on the child.

Jacklin is a paediatric neurologist, an expert on shaken baby syndrome.

Evidence


One of the doctors who cared for baby Michael at the Avril Elizabeth home would also give evidence about the effects on the child after the abuse.

Bradley Connor and Malinda Marshall, now both aged 26, were the parents of Michael - dubbed baby Michael in the media.

On November 21 the pair were found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. A charge of attempted murder was dropped. Both are out on bail.

Connor appeared in the dock in a blue hoody, while Marshall wore a backless halter-neck top.

Baby Michael, who was 3 months old at the time of the assaults, died a blind quadriplegic at Avril Elizabeth Home on October 16 last year.

Non-governmental organisation Women and Men Against Child Abuse (Wamaca) representatives demonstrated at the court on Friday.

Spokesperson Vincentia Dlamini Ngobese said the organisation was disappointed that sentencing was not completed on Friday as expected.

The parents' age at the time of the assaults was no excuse for the crime.

"There are other resources available if parents really can't cope. There are children's homes, police stations... It's not an excuse anymore."

Earlier she said the organisation hoped for harsh sentences for Connor and Marshall.

"The sentences must be a warning to child abusers that there will be serious consequences for their actions and that consistent justice will prevail for any crimes committed against children."

Placards


The children's rights advocates held up placards bearing Michael's image in court but lowered them on Booyens' request.

When Marshall left court, Wamaca followed her to her car singing and showing her the posters of baby Michael.

As she and her new partner drove off, the posters were stuck onto the car.

Outside court the NGO displayed banners calling for life sentences for Marshall and Connor.

Connor waited inside the court for the children's rights advocates to disperse.

One woman held a doll in a cardboard coffin bearing the legend "RIP baby Michael".

Booyens rejected an application to allow cameras into the court but said audio recordings would be permitted.

Previously, a medical professional said baby Michael appeared to have been throttled, causing haemorrhaging and blindness.

In October 2003, Michael was admitted to hospital with injuries which raised concern that he had been abused. A social worker looked into the case, but recommended that he be returned to his parents.

In November 2003, Michael was again admitted to hospital. He was bruised, blind, and brain damaged. His parents - aged 18 at the time - were questioned.

Initially Michael's mother claimed his father had abused him.

Later, she retracted this and claimed she alone was responsible for Michael's injuries.

The baby was placed in the care of the Ikhaya Tini Vorster home, where he remained until 2007.

Conviction


Marshall was convicted of assaulting the child in July 15, 2005, after changing her plea to not guilty.

Connor received a suspended sentence under a plea bargain in which he admitted to not feeding the baby and to not getting medical treatment for him.

In a new trial both were charged with attempted murder in October 2009.

Connor applied for a permanent stay of prosecution on the basis of his previous plea bargain. This was denied.

The attempted murder charge was later changed to assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Marshall has since married and has three more children, all below the age of 9.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  child abuse

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