Poison to Endanger Life or Cause Grievous Bodily Harm Offences & Defences in NSW

Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

It’s the inconceivable – a child being poisoned by their very own mother; the one person who is meant to nurture and protect at all costs.

Yet, at present, a 39-year-old Sydney mother is on trial at the Downing Centre District Court after she was accused of poisoning her son, namely by injecting faeces through his cannula whilst he was sick in hospital.

The case dates back to September 2014 when the mother’s nine-year-old son was admitted to Westmead Children’s Hospital.

During the boy’s stay, it is alleged the mother injected faeces into his hospital IV drip as he squirmed in pain.

The child ended up falling severely unwell and went through phases of critical fever and delirium.

His blood culture also tested positive to the bacteria E. coli.

 

Woman Commences Trial in March 2021 Over Alleged Poisoning After Years of Interruptions

On Wednesday 17 March 2021, the trial began of the woman – a mother of four who cannot be named for legal reasons – following years of frequent interruptions.

As the mother faced the special hearing, the court heard that at the time of the alleged poisoning, the young boy asked the mother, “why are you doing this to me?”

The woman’s barrister, Pauline David, told the court there were various possibilities that could explain how the boy came to be infected.

Nevertheless, Crown witness and nurse, Lindie Brown, told the court that during one of her shifts, the child became “very unwell”, reaching a temperature of 40C and experiencing rigors.

At the time, Ms Brown was working as a unit manager at the ward.

Furthermore, it was heard the young boy would complain of pains in his back, stomach and head.

He had also requested medicine to “take the pain away”.

According to Ms Brown, the boy also uttered words along the lines of, “you could have put something in my cannula when I was asleep”, referring to her “poisoning” him.

The nurse felt compelled to make a “mental note” of the episodes and contacted child protection services via email.

It was also acknowledged by Ms Brown that the boy was in an elevated state of stress at the time she claims to have noticed him questioning his mother.

She concurred with the mother’s barrister that the child exhibited “considerable” behavioural problems whilst a patient at the hospital, on occasions even swearing at nurses whilst also being “very demanding of his mother”. 

 

Second Nurse Comes Forward Testifying She Also Heard Young Boy Question his Mother Over Alleged Poisoning

Meanwhile, another nurse in the boy’s room during that same shift, Kristina White, spoke to the court, also saying she heard the boy say similar things while glaring at his mother.

Ms White testified that she heard the boy say, “What have you done to my cannula this time?”, to which the mother replied, “Why would you say that? That makes me upset when you say those things”.

Ms White remembered having a conversation with Ms Brown immediately after leaving the room, during which her superior declared she was concerned about the boy’s alleged comments.

In response, the mother’s barrister asked both nurses if it was a possibility that the boy was delirious as a result of the painkillers he had taken.

The barrister also asked them if they recalled the boy uttering words to the effect of “why are there elephants in the room?” around the time he accused his mother of tampering with his cannula.

Neither nurses could remember the words being said.

They also could not determine whether or not the boy had been hallucinating.

All the while, both nurses concurred he did not like medical staff putting medicine in his cannula, and in response, would “act out” towards them.

During the hearing, a blood diseases expert also gave evidence, imparting that a particular organism, which can only live in the bowel, was traced in the boy’s blood.

The mother denies infecting the boy and has pleaded not guilty to using poison to endanger a life.

The hearing, before Judge Justin Smith, continues.

Poison to Endanger Life or Cause Grievous Bodily Harm Offences & Defences in NSW

If the mother is found guilty of using poison to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm, as per section 39 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), she can face a maximum penalty of up to ten years behind bars – a penalty which indeed reflects that the offence is taken very seriously by the courts.

In NSW, according to section 39, the offence of using poison to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm takes place if:

  • A person administers or causes a person to take poison, an intoxicating substance or any other destructive or noxious thing; and
  • The substance either endangers that person’s life or causes that person grievous bodily harm; and
  • The person intended to either injure that person or they knew the possibility of injuring that person but did so regardless.

“Grievous bodily harm” refers to really serious harm. This includes internal organ damage.

Defences to this Charge include:

  • Absence of sufficient evidence to prove each element of the charge beyond reasonable doubt

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