A grieving mother is pleading with parents to never leave
their young children alone in water after her son drowned
when he was left by himself in a bath.
The 13-month-old infant was found face down in the water by
his mother when she returned after spending nearly eight
minutes away from the bathroom.
The 29-year-old, who cannot be named, was charged with her
son's manslaughter but today was acquitted after only two
hours of deliberation by a jury in the High Court at
Commenting on the case, Auckland barrister and criminal
defence specialist Steve Bonnar said the Crown could have
pursued a lesser charge of "criminal nuisance".
"That is an offence where someone fails to comply with a
legal duty, and their failure to comply is one that they know
could endanger the life of a person."
Mr Bonnar said had the Crown had pursued this charge - which
has a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment - they would
have been required to prove the mother knew she was
endangering her child.
During the trial safety experts told the court babies and
toddlers relaxed when they slipped under water, going into an
in utero state, rather than fighting for breath.
Today, the woman said her son lost his life due to her lack
of knowledge surrounding infant drownings and how they occur.
Infants have a valve that shuts off once water is inhaled
into the lungs which prevents more water entering, but also
means they go unconscious quickly and die silently, the woman
"Parents, please never leave your child alone near any body
of water for any amount of time.
"You may think the chance of drowning is remote but if you
hear my story and still choose to tempt fate and risk leaving
your child unsupervised you are playing dice with death and
the very real possibility your child could lose their life
and you will regret it for the rest of your life."
After today's verdict was read, a group of about a dozen
supporters cried and hugged each other in the public gallery
Outside court, the mother said her faith in the justice
system had been restored.
"I feel that it's so good that it's over and we can focus on
his life now rather than the circumstances surrounding his
In her closing today, prosecutor Sally Carter said in leaving
her son alone in 18cm to 19cm of bath water was a "major
departure...of the standard of care that was expected".
The little boy drowned because of his mother's decision to
leave the room for 7 minutes and 56 seconds, she said.
"It's not a short period of time."
But the woman's lawyer said this was a case about whether the
community marked a mistake with a conviction for
"We all make mistakes, we are not machines," he said.
"We do not criminalise every mistake and it would be a
travesty to criminalise this one."