Sentences imposed on the killers of a four-year-old girl have “shocked the public conscience” and should be increased, a court has been told.
Chloe Valentine died from massive head injuries after being forced to ride a motorbike that repeatedly crashed over a three-day period in her Adelaide backyard in January 2012.
Her mother Ashlee Polkinghorne, 22, was jailed for at least four years and nine months, while her mother’s then-partner, Benjamin McPartland, 28, received four years and two months.
They both pleaded guilty to manslaughter through criminal neglect.
Director of Public Prosecutions Adam Kimber SC on Thursday urged the Court of Criminal Appeal to find the sentences were “manifestly inadequate” and shocked the public conscience.
The terrified 17kg girl was repeatedly placed on a 50kg motorbike in the backyard.
She suffered massive injuries after the bike repeatedly crashed into a shed and pot plants, fell on top of her and eventually smashed into a lemon tree.
The couple waited more than eight hours before calling an ambulance, during which time they smoked cannabis and went on the internet seeking information about what to do when someone was unconscious.
Mr Kimber said the sentences needed to deter both prisoners, who in future may have children or be involved with people who have them.
The sentences also needed to deter other child minders from not getting help when something went wrong.
“The child was but an infant, unable to resist getting onto the bike, unable to get herself medical care, unable to call an ambulance,” Mr Kimber said.
Anthony Allen, for McPartland, said the non-parole period of 50 months in jail was “hardly insignificant” and the sentence sat “squarely” within the appropriate range.
Brian Deegan, for Polkinghorne, asked what greater deterrence could his client have than to lose her only child in tragic circumstances.
“It will be trite to suggest she will not have learnt personally an enormous lesson from this incident,” he said.
“There is no greater punishment than to lose her child.”
He said no malice was involved in putting Chloe on the bike, adding “this was supposed to be a happy episode”.
McPartland received a maximum term of seven years while Polkinghorne received eight years.
The three judges reserved their decision.