Parents fear child lost if hospital treats burns

A REFUGEE couple resisted taking their badly scalded two-year-old daughter to Nambour General Hospital for treatment because they feared they would lose custody of her.

The Maroochydore District Court heard yesterday the girl's mother thought Child Safety officials would take the child away if they took her to hospital again following an earlier visit for burns.

The couple treated her burns themselves after she was scalded by bath water and bound her hands and feet with bandages to prevent her from aggravating the injuries.

Hospital staff discovered the burns and notified authorities when the girl was taken to hospital two weeks later with a head injury.

The court heard the girl had burns to about a fifth of her body and had suffered more pain and possibly more scarring because her parents did not seek immediate hospital treatment.

The couple pleaded guilty yesterday to charges including causing cruelty to a child, deprivation of liberty, and assault occasioning bodily harm.

They were sentenced to three years jail, but immediately released on parole, and were also placed on three years probation.

Barristers for the couple said the wife had understood that her daughter would be taken away by Child Safety after a visit from an officer, and her husband had taken on the same fear.

The couple were originally from war-torn Africa and the woman, who has only partial English, needed an interpreter in court.

Judge Brad Farr accepted their actions were "not borne of malice, but rather from a mistaken fear that if you had taken her to the hospital, that she would be taken away from you by authorities".

The mother's aunt has had custody of the little girl since she was scalded and the couple have since had two more children, one of whom has been in foster care since birth, but Child Safety is working on reunifying the family.



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