A woman who killed her three-month old daughter by laying her on train tracks has avoided jail.
Melissa Arbuckle was sentenced to a good behaviour bond by Justice Jane Dixon in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
The 32-year-old veterinarian was handcuffed to a hospital bed for 18 days after her arrest but has not spent any other time in custody.
She has now returned to work as a veterinarian.
Attempted Murder Suicide
During the sentencing proceedings, the court heard that Arbuckle laid the baby on the train tracks in Upwey in Melbourne's east.
She used the girl's hand to wave at a train before another driver attempted to brake.
The train driver told police he 'closed his eyes' when he knew a collision was imminent.
The driver, who was only 52 metres away, could not stop in time. The child was struck and thrown under the carriage.
The train came to a stop 41 metres further down the track. Witnesses rushed to the scene and pulled out the still breathing baby.
When first responders arrived a short time later, Arbuckle was attempting to inflict injuries upon herself with railway ballast.
The baby died of her injuries while Arbuckle survived.
Arbuckle pleaded guilty to infanticide, rather than murder charges. Infanticide only carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.
'Bright Prospects of Rehabilitation'
Justice Dixon agreed with Arbuckle's criminal defence lawyers that the case "needed to be tempered with mercy".
"I agree that you have done everything you possibly could possibly be expected of to attempt to expedite the offence before the court and to recover psychiatrically.Your bright prospects for rehabilitation were not challenged by the Crown. "
Justice Dixon accepted the 32-year-old suffered physical injuries following the murder-suicide attempt, as well as mental injuries from the associated trauma.
Her Honour found that the shame Arbuckle suffered after reading media reports about her crime were "relevant in mitigation."
Mrs Arbuckle's husband had since disowned her for the death of his child.
There was evidence presented to the court that after the birth of her daughter, Arbuckle developed severe postpartum depression and psychosis.
In the weeks leading up to the incident, Arbuckle believed that she hurt the child after rocking her bassinet too vigorously. She thought her daughter suffered from shaken baby syndrome as a result.
Her criminal defence lawyers told the court that their client ".had a perfectionist personality and need for control . she wanted to be the perfect mother. She had come to believe dying was her only option. She would hear voices telling her she was a bad mother."
Psychiatric evidence suggested that Arbuckle had been experiencing auditory hallucinations that she was not good enough and that she had to take her own life.
"The voices were there all the time and they were commanding, saying that you just had to do it," Justice Dixon said.
The court heard Lily's father, who has asked not to be named, has been profoundly affected by her death.
"He states that he loved Lily more than life itself and thinks of her constantly. He struggles with his feelings towards you," Justice Dixon said.
Her Honour noted that it was beyond the power of the court to repair the suffering and loss.
"He says that the worst thing that could possibly happen to him has already happened and that seeing Lily at the hospital broke his heart."
The father has been unable to go to work on some days or to carry on.
By contrast, Arbuckle had recommenced working as a vet and had entered an agreement with the Veterinary Registration Board placing conditions on her practice and to the supply of treatment reports to its board as required.
Lawyers for Murder Charges
In New South Wales, Section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 defines Murder as an act that causes the death of another person and the Accused intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.
Murder is a 'strictly indictable' charge. This means that it will be finalised in either the District Court or Supreme Court.
The maximum penalty for Murder is life imprisonment.
There is a standard non-parole period of 20 years imprisonment. This is the amount of time you must spend in jail before you can be granted parole. While this is not mandatory and will vary with each case, it is a starting point for the Court.
Every person found guilty of murder has been sentenced to jail. The length of imprisonment ranges from 15 years to life imprisonment. The offence will be aggravated if it involves an assault on a child.
Despite this there have been a number of recent examples of an Accused person beating murder charges after retaining experienced criminal defence lawyers. Having the best criminal lawyers for murder charges will go a long way towards beating these charges.
Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to establish a Murder charge, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt:
- The alleged victim died; and
- The Accused's act or failure to act caused that death; and
- The Accused either:
a. had the intent to kill or commit grievous bodily harm(ie. cause really serious injury); and you foresaw the possibility of death occurring; OR
b. had the intent to commit an offence with a maximum penalty of 25 years or more.