The mother of a 12-year-old girl allegedly murdered by her stepfather following sustained physical abuse has been arrested over the schoolgirl’s death. Detectives charged the 34-year-old woman with manslaughter on Thursday following an eight-month investigation into the girl’s life in the lead-up to her violent death. It will be alleged the mother showed “gross negligence” by knowing that the girl was being continually physically abused before she was allegedly bashed by her stepfather and put to bed in the family home at Aberglasslyn, near Newcastle in the Hunter region, last September.
She was found dead at 5.45am the following morning.
About a month after the girl’s death, Fairfax Media revealed she had missed large chunks of class in her last two years of primary school in Newcastle and Maitland, and the first year of high school, in the lead-up to her death.
A 31-year-old man, the girl’s stepfather, is still before the courts after being charged with murder.
The mother faced Maitland Local Court on Thursday where she was granted conditional bail. She sat in the dock with her head in her hands as she waited for proceedings to begin.
Despite making some concessions, the police prosecutor ultimately argued that bail was not usually “in the ball park” for people facing charges under such serious circumstances.
The prosecution also argued that the manslaughter charge had arisen “not so much from involvement but willful blindness”.
Defense solicitor Joplin Higgins told the court that the woman was not a flight risk and bail would not present an unacceptable risk to the community or her other children.
Ms Higgins said the woman was receiving treatment from a forensic psychologist.
“It’s my submission that my client has been a victim of abuse at the hands of the co-accused,” she said.
The woman’s children are in the care of the Department of Family and Community Services, and she has been allowed a single two hour visit with them in a public park each month.
The court registrar granted bail on several conditions, including that the woman surrender her passport and that she report to police each day.
“It’s incredibly unusual to consider granting bail in a matter this serious,” he said.
The woman, her daughter and the girl’s stepfather are unable to be identified for legal reasons.
She will appear in Newcastle Local Court on July 6.