Vegan parents of malnourished baby avoid jail

Police officers talk in front of the Downing Centre local courts on February 19, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.Image copyright
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Image caption

The couple were sentenced on Thursday at the Downing Centre court

An Australian couple who put their baby daughter on a strict vegan diet that left her severely malnourished have avoided serving a jail sentence.

The couple in their 30s, who cannot be named, were sentenced to an 18-month jail term which will be served as a community order.

The girl, now three, was so malnourished she looked like a three-month-old at 19 months.

She was fed a diet of oats, potatoes, toast and rice among others.

The child was found with no teeth when she was taken into care earlier last year.

At a sentencing at Sydney’s Downing Centre Court on Thursday, Judge Sarah Huggett criticised the parents for putting her on a “completely inadequate” diet.

“This child was severely malnourished, underweight and undersized and delayed as far as age-appropriate milestones were concerned,” said the judge.

‘Couldn’t speak, feed herself’

The girl was taken into care in March 2018 when her mother called emergency services after she suffered a seizure.

It was then that she was found to be severely malnourished. She presented with blue lips, cold hands and feet, low blood sugar and little muscle tone, said the Australian Associated Press.

The baby’s foster carer, who took her in after she was taken out of her parents’ care, said the baby was “behind other children”.

“She couldn’t sit up, she couldn’t speak any words, she couldn’t feed herself, she couldn’t play with toys… she couldn’t roll over all the way,” she said in a victim impact statement in May.

Judge Huggett said the child’s parents were “initially unable to accept that their daughters’ condition was due to malnutrition”.

She said the couple – who had two other children that they raised without injury – were not “very young or uneducated”.

She said the mother was suffering from a level of depression at the time but had become “increasingly fixated” in her beliefs – including their vegan diet.

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Media captionLaceinne Cooper on raising her baby as a vegan

The judge criticised the father for doing “nothing at all to address” his daughter’s condition.

“It is the responsibility of every parent to ensure the diet they choose to provide to their children… is one that is balanced and contains sufficient essential nutrients for optimal growth,” ABC quoted her as saying.

The parents first appeared in court in May last year, where they pleaded guilty to failing to provide for a child and causing serious injury.

Each parent was sentenced to 18 months in jail to be served as an intensive corrections order and 300 hours of community service.

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