A woman who killed three of her children by driving them into a Melbourne lake has been sentenced for the third time in as many years.
Akon Guode must spend at least 14 years behind bars for deliberately driving her car into the Wyndham Vale lake in April 2015, while severely depressed.
Her 16-month-old son Bol, and four-year-old twins Hanger and Madit, died. But her daughter Alual, then aged five, survived.
Their mother’s case has been subject to multiple appeals.
Guode was originally jailed in 2017 for 26-and-a-half years, after pleading guilty to two charges of murder, and once each of infanticide and attempted murder.
The refugee had survived rape and seen her soldier husband shot-dead in war-torn Sudan before coming to Australia.
Given the circumstances, Guode lawyers thought her original jail term was too harsh and took it to the Court of Appeal.
In 2018, it reduced the sentence to 18 years, with a minimum of 14, on the basis of Guode’s disturbed mental state when she killed her children.
However, prosecutors weren’t happy and re-appealed the case to Australia’s highest court, which in March decided the appeal judges got it wrong.
They erred in considering Guode’s guilty plea to infanticide, and her relevant mental state, in re-sentencing her for murder and attempted murder, the High Court found.
The case was sent back to the Court of Appeal and the same three judges on Wednesday affirmed their decision from two years prior.
Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, and Justices David Beach and Phillip Priest, said the reduced sentence took into account factors including mercy.
They also noted the delay Guode had endured while her punishment was appealed twice.
“It should not be thought that, in reaching (the conclusions we have reached), we have lost sight of the fact that three vulnerable children lost their lives (and that a fourth nearly did),” the judges said, repeating some of their comments from two years earlier.
“Adjectives such as ‘tragic’ are inadequate to convey the depth of emotional response provoked by the destruction of such innocent lives.”
But the judges maintained the original jail sentence was too harsh given Guode’s “pitiable” situation and severely compromised mental state when she drove into the lake.