A STEPMOTHER who “deliberately and systematically” whipped a young “defenceless” girl with a dog lead because she was angry with her then partner has been jailed.
Tara Jefferson, 20, struck the eight-year-old girl numerous times with a dog lead, cutting her scalp and causing her eyes to haemorrhage, last March.
In sentencing today, South Australian District Court Judge Rosemary Davey said photos of the child showed bruising across her eyes, both cheeks and other areas of her face.
“They were horrific injuries for anyone to inflict upon a person, let alone a young and defenceless child.
Earlier on the same day, Jefferson had placed curry powder and then soy sauce in the girl’s mouth because she had made mistakes while reading. She also took her outside, made her strip bare and hosed her down.
“You clearly lost control when dealing with this child.”
She said the punishment was “quite severe” against any child who made an error in reading.
She said Jefferson was angry with the child’s father because a promised trip to Melbourne for her birthday had been cancelled.
“I accept that you are immature and must have lacked the necessary experience in parenting skills to care for the children.
“In my view, our society hasn’t yet reached the stage where parents and care givers need to be trained and receive counselling in order to know that you cannot beat a child as you did.
“In this case that is obvious and must have been obvious to you.”
Judge Davey said Jefferson had originally claimed the girl’s injuries were caused by a fall.
She had pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated intentionally causing harm to a child.
Upon her release, Judge Davey said Jefferson planned to become a midwife and return to family in England.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, the girl’s father, who cannot be identified to protect the child, said the crime had affected him in many ways.
“On the night of the incident my daughter screamed for four hours straight, repeatedly asking me if she was going to die,” he said.
“To think that someone I trusted to look after my children would do this to a child is unimaginable.”
He said he now struggles to sleep because he wakes up during the night “to check and see if my kids are OK”.
Judge Davey jailed Jefferson, who is about five months pregnant, to 18 months in prison with a non-parole period of six months.