Foster carer sentenced for “mind-boggling” cruelty

WHEN foster care services first looked at a "suitable" room to house a seven-year-old girl beneath a Brisbane home in 2003, they found a pretty pink bed, toys and clothing.

But when police arrived in 2008, they found the room had no window, no light bulb, no mattress, locks on the door and a "disgusting smell".

The stench had set in because the girl, aged 12 by then, was forced to defecate and urinate on the floor, sometimes in her own clothes which were tied to her with rope, and was only allowed to wash once a week

Judge David Reid said the situation was "mind-boggling" and an "appalling abuse of trust" when he sentenced the foster carer in Brisbane District Court for cruelty to children.

He said the girl had trouble persuading people at her school that she was treated this way because the 43-year-old carer claimed the girl would not wash herself when her school inquired about her odour.

Crown prosecutor Judy Geary said the Woodridge woman responsible was having behavioural problems with the girl but she could have ceased her foster care arrangements before things got out of hand.

She said the girl was forced to sleep on a wire bed base without toilet or wash facilities.

Ms Geary said as well as being locked inside the room for long periods, sometimes the girl would be locked outside in the dark and wet.

She said neighbours heard the girl sobbing to be let inside, as late as 1am.

Ms Geary said there was "persistent and deliberate" mistreatment of an already vulnerable child over several months.

"The treatment can only be described as cruel and degrading and it occurred on a daily basis," she said.

Barrister Angus Edwards said his client's mental health had deteriorated at the time and her problems were exacerbated when she tried to moderate the girl's troublesome behaviour.

He said the woman's concerns turned to hyper-vigilance and the degradation of her psychiatric state followed.

Judge Reid said the woman's acts to deal with understandably troubled child, who had been removed from her own family home, became "illogical and unsophisticated".

He sentenced her to two years jail but she was released on parole immediately because she had already served 276 days in custody and a rehabilitation program was under way.

During a previous court hearing for the matter, the woman claimed the girl kept lighting fires that could have burned the house down, that she stole belongings from everyone in the house when they slept, she broke possessions, ripped her own clothes and killed animals.

The woman swore she lived in constant fear of what the girl would do to her, her family and her belongings.

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