Mother jailed for fracturing baby’s ribs, skull

A mother will spend two years and seven months behind bars for fracturing her infant’s ribs and causing her brain to bleed, but relatives yelled out their support for her in court today.

Ritika, who goes by one name only, was sentenced today for inflicting injuries on her 8-week-old daughter in November 2018 after sending a series of angry text messages to her husband.

The injuries have been described by one police officer involved as the worst they have ever seen inflicted on a young child.

As Ritika was taken away by officers at Auckland District Court today, a woman yelled: « You can’t decide the life of my sister » from the public gallery.

« How can you do this? » she yelled, as she cradled a baby. She was then asked to leave or face an arrest by court staff.

Family of the 34-year-old had written letters of their support for Ritika and denial of any offending by her.

Ritika herself still denies charges of ill treatment and neglect, wounding and injuring with reckless disregard – of which a jury found her guilty in April.

Her husband, Sandeep Kumar, was found not guilty of two charges of ill treatment and neglect of a child.

Ritika sobbed in the dock when the sentencing was handed down, her back to the judge to avoid being photographed.

The Indian national is in New Zealand on a work visa, and her sentence makes her liable for deportation.

Her daughter, now aged 2, had been placed under the care of Oranga Tamariki and her recovery was « ongoing », a police statement said.

She was Ritika’s first child and the first grandchild of the family, and was « most welcomed by all », the court heard.

The offending took place at the couple’s Mt Wellington home.

The baby’s ribs were fractured on or before November 2, the jury heard, and she suffered a subdural haematoma on November 7.

Kumar had left the house that day but Ritika wanted to spend Diwali festival with her husband and baby. He did not reply to many calls and texts from Ritika, in which she threatened to harm herself and her baby, the court heard.

Ritika inflicted injuries that led to the haematoma while Kumar was not home, but did not seek medical treatment until some 17 hours later.

By this point her daughter suffered a skull fracture, retinal harm and started experiencing seizures.

The baby was rushed from a GP to Starship Hospital.

« There she was diagnosed with injuries including subdural brain haemorrhage, which could have been caused by rotational force, the sort of force applied if a baby has been shaken, » Judge Ema Aitken said.

« I make no finding today of what exactly you did to cause this significant injury, only that you did in fact cause it, Ms Ritika, » she said.

It was her daughter’s first Diwali day and « things had not gone her way », the jury heard at the trial.

« You dealt with her in a way that was utterly reckless … knowing you injured her, you failed to seek medical attention until the following morning, » Judge Aitken said.

« Your treatment of your baby daughter involved a very gross breach of trust.

« As her mother, she should have been able to look to you to protect her from harm.

« I accept that you love your daughter and this offending could be said to be out of character, possibly by an inexperienced and immature young mother. »

Detective Inspector Bridget Doell, who was in court today, said the nature of the injuries were horrific.

« This poor, defenceless baby had broken bones all over her body including a skull fracture, several rib fractures and broken legs, » she said.

« Her injuries were among the worst I have seen inflicted on a young child.

« What makes this even more appalling is the fact that the child’s injuries were inflicted by her own mother, the person whose duty it is to care for and protect them. »

Where to get help

If you believe a child is in immediate danger, phone police on 111.

If you’re worried about a child, you can make a report of concern to Oranga Tamariki by phoning 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459).

If you need assistance or support relating to child care there are a number of partner agencies who can support, such as Shine or Plunket.