Donna Deaves jailed for 12 years over daughter Tanilla's death
Two-year-old Tanilla Warwick-Deaves spent the last two days of her life lying in a pram,
bruised, battered and unable to save herself.
Donna Deaves was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Wednesday for failing to do anything
to stop the little girl from dying. Deaves has a non-parole period of nine years, making it the highest
sentence ever given to a mother in NSW accused of manslaughter on the basis of criminal negligence.
In pleading guilty to manslaughter on the basis of criminal negligence, Deaves admitted to witnessing
a man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, assault Tanilla on August 25, 2011, at a house in Watanobbi on the central coast.
She also admitted to leaving the toddler in her pram for the next 48 hours and failing to seek any medical
attention until the early hours of August 27 when she finally called Triple-0.
Tanilla died soon after.
Deaves told a sentencing hearing earlier this month that ''of course'' she loved her daughter
but she was scared and frightened and didn't know what to do after Tanilla was bashed.
''Until you're in that position, it's impossible to say what it's like," the 29-year-old said.
"When you're shocked and frightened or scared it's really difficult to do anything."
In sentencing Deaves, Justice Stephen Rothman accepted that Deaves felt ''helpless'' but
she ''should have had the courage to take her child to hospital''.
He accepted that Deaves never abused the child and had herself been abused by previous
partners, contributing to a personality disorder, but said this did not abdicate a mother
from her responsibility to protect her child.
''It is difficult to envisage a duty higher than the one society imposes on a parent toward his or her child,'' he said.
Deaves' explanation for why she did call triple-0 was ''inconsistent'' and her remorse was
more focused on how Tanilla's death had affected her, he said.
The case has reignited debate over under-resourcing within the Department of Family and Community
Services with the court previously hearing that 33 welfare reports were made during Tanilla's short life.
Justice Rothman delivered a stinging rebuke on the child protection system, saying it was clear
Tanilla's death could have been avoided ''by intervention of department officers or family members''.
In his victim impact statement, Tanilla's biological father, Adrian Warrick, said that on the few
occasions he had been allowed to take Tanilla, she was bruised and malnourished but he was told by
caseworkers that Deaves was fit to have custody of the child.
''Eight months later she is murdered ... I never saw Tanilla again until the day we buried her,'' he said.
''This is how I got my baby girl back - dead.''
Outside court, Tanilla's stepmother, Brooke Bowen, said the family was happy with the sentence.
Deaves' brother Nathan said he was ''okay'' with the sentence and said: ''My sister will learn from this''.
Her mother Margaret broke down as she said Tanilla was now in a better place.
''When I go I'll join her and I'll be in a better place with that little child," she said.