The 26-year-old woman and 30-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, both pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court to torture and cruelty of a child under the age of 16.
The court heard that between July 2013 and October 2014, the little girl was regularly subjected to a series of “cruel and unusual punishments” when she apparently misbehaved.
The court also heard how an older man, who was a friend of the five-year-old girl’s stepfather, was regularly called to the couple’s house in Caboolture to inflict punishment on the child.
The punishments included locking the child in a bedroom for hours at a time, not allowing her to use the toilet and forcing her to endure boot camp-style exercise to the point of exhaustion, the court was told.
“During all of these punishments, the child was crying and screaming and asking to stop doing the excessive physical exercise, asking to be let out, complaining that she needed to go to the toilet,” Judge Craig Chowdhury said.
Neighbours also reported seeing the little girl locked out of the house for hours with the family’s dogs, where she would scream and cry for help and ask to be let inside.
The court heard how on occasions when the child supposedly misbehaved, or soiled herself, her mother would call the older male friend to come to their house and inflict punishment, including hitting her across the bottom with a stick, rubbing her nose in faeces, forcing her to eat curry powder and occasionally pouring cold water over her.
“These acts can only be designed to humiliate, demoralise and destroy any childhood that this girl was ever going to have,” Judge Chowdhury said.
As a result of being underfed and not being allowed to go to the toilet, the child suffered a number of medical issues, including chronic constipation and faecal incontinence, as well as significant and severe emotional trauma.
The court heard that the child, who is now in the care of her paternal grandmother, has been diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder.
“The mind boggles when one hears that a child had to endure these events over an extended period of time, some 15 months,” Judge Chowdhury said.
Lawyers for the victim’s mother told the court the woman had a “violent and dysfunctional upbringing” and had also been the victim of sexual abuse.
Judge Chowdhury sentenced the woman to three years in jail, suspending the sentence after three months.
She will be eligible for parole in October.
Man pleads guilty to torturing three other children
The man involved in the child’s torture also pleaded guilty to three other torture charges, over a number of incidents involving three unrelated children.
The court heard that, under the alleged influence of his older male friend, the man took part in the torture of a 12-year-old boy, a girl aged five to six years old, and another four-year-old girl.
The court was told that on several occasions the children were taken to a forest in cold, dark weather and forced to run alongside the older man’s car for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Fearing they would be left behind, the terrified children would scream and cry out “don’t leave me” as they ran on the dirt track alongside the moving vehicle.
The court heard this often continued for several kilometres to the point of exhaustion.
“The terror of that experience is unimaginable, and the effects on those children will no doubt be long lasting,” Judge Chowdhury told the man.
The man’s lawyers told the court he had suffered a brain injury in a car accident in 2006, and was left with only 75 per cent brain capacity.
He was sentenced to three years in prison for torture of the young girl, and four years for torturing the other children.
He will be eligible for parole in March next year.