Parents who fed their toddler a vegan diet have avoided jail after the child became so malnourished her bones fractured and teeth fell out.
The mother, 33, and father, 35, pleaded guilty in 2018 to failing to provide for their child and were sentenced on Thursday to 300 hours of community service in Australia.
Their three children were taken away from them after Sydney police found their 20-month-old daughter, who had also not been vaccinated, suffering from rickets and a preventable bone disease as a result of her diet in March 2018.
Judge Sarah Huggett condemned the couple’s “reckless failure to provide the necessities of life” and said: “This was not an isolated act or a momentary decision that caused danger to the child.
“The child was seriously underweight, underdeveloped and undernourished. That would have taken time to occur.”
Court documents revealed the girl, now three years old, was fed a diet of oats, potatoes, rice, tofu, bread, peanut butter and rice milk, with small snacks of fruit and vegetables, local media reported.
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The girl was taken into care in March 2018 after she suffered a fit and her lips turned blue, causing her mother to call the emergency services.
Aged 19 months, she weighed less than 5kg, suffered impaired motor skills and looked just three months old, the court previously heard. Her parents had never taken her to a doctor.
The toddler and her two older brothers, who were sufficiently nourished but not up to date with vaccinations, are now in the care of family members in Queensland, Australian Associated Press reported.
Her health has improved, but her future development remains in doubt. She was receiving physiotherapy and speech training, local media reported her foster carer as telling the court in a January victim impact statement.
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Judge Huggett said that regardless of dietary preferences every parent has a responsibility to ensure their children’s diet is “balanced and contains sufficient essential nutrients and vitamins for optimum growth and development”.
She said the parents, who cannot be named to protect their child’s anonymity, had been “inconsistent” and “untruthful”, and had told authorities their daughter sometimes ate meat products, was awaiting vaccinations and had seen doctors.
The mother had previously worked in childcare and was suffering with post-natal depression, local reports said.
The couple, both of whom wept in the dock, were sentenced to an 18-month corrections order so as not to damage the “important bond” with their children, of whom they have lost custody.
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