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Jailed mother cites 'trauma' for missing court

ABC News logo ABC News 22/05/2014 Candice Marcus
Chloe Valentine died after motorbike crashes. © ABC News Chloe Valentine died after motorbike crashes.

A woman jailed for killing her young daughter by forcing her to ride a motorbike and crash has cited "trauma" for not being in court for a sentence appeal hearing.

Ashley Jean Polkinghorne, 22, was absent as the prosecution argued against her eight-year prison sentence and non-parole term of four years and nine months.

The prosecution also is appealing against a seven-year jail sentence with non-parole of four years and two months for her former partner Benjamin McPartland, 28.

Polkinghorne's lawyer Brian Deegan told the Court of Criminal Appeal his client was unwell.

"My client is not present and apologises to the court, she is not well," he said.

"She has advised my junior that she does not wish to appear in court, [as] she's still suffering psychologically from the trauma associated with all of this and she just does not want to appear again."

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Adam Kimber told the three judges hearing the appeal that the sentences were "manifestly inadequate" and had "shocked the public consciousness".

Mr Kimber said a strong message needed to be sent to others "to deter those who look after children from placing them at risk".

"There is a real need to deter people, when things go wrong, from doing nothing.

"Eight-and-a-half hours passed before an ambulance was called because the child had stopped breathing."

DPP cites girl's shocking injuries

Mr Kimber says Chloe Valentine was forced back onto the motorbike over three days and sustained multiple serious injuries.

He says she got whiplash from riding into chicken wire, hit a lemon tree at 40 kilometres per hour, struck statues and crashed into a shed face-first.

The DPP says Polkinghorne was heard laughing during a mobile phone video and the woman and her then-partner had smoked cannabis and been on the internet for hours after the four-year-old girl lost consciousness.

He says internet records show the pair had been on Facebook and online banking.

Mr Kimber says an interview McPartland gave after the girl was taken to hospital was disturbing.

"It is chilling the way he described what happened to the child on the Tuesday," the court was told.

"There was an enormous amount of support from Polkinghorne's family and various government and non-government agencies."

The court heard when ambulance officers arrived to deal with the injured child her eyes were black and swollen, she had a cut to her head and there were bruises all over her body.

The girl had at least 39 injuries, the hearing was told.

Mr Kimber asked the court to look at post-mortem photographs of Chloe Valentine.

"I ask the court to look at the state of that child. That was the state she was in ... and yet nothing was done," he said.

"This is a particularly egregious breach of a duty of care and it makes it a serious example of manslaughter."

'Abusive, controlling' adult supervision

Mr Kimber told the court of the young girl's fear of her mother's partner ahead of her death.

"The child was extremely fearful of McPartland and McPartland had demonstrated behaviour that was abusive, controlling and at times violent," the hearing was told.

"This sentence tends to push down the sentence that would be appropriate when a child dies even there's an egregious breach of trust over two days and there are mitigating circumstances.

"A proper sentence has to reflect society's disapproval of the conduct."

The DPP says the child could not resist the adults when forced onto the motorbike and could not get herself medical care, making her "totally reliable in those in the house to help her".

"The moral culpability could not be any higher.

"Polkinghorne made a deliberate choice to prioritise her own interest and this is where I say general deterrence looms large in a case like this."

Mr Kimber says the jailed pair's prospects of rehabilitation are questionable and they might want to have children in the future.

"Polkinghorne is still a young woman, it must be highly likely that she will have further children herself in the future or that she will form a relationship or relationships with men who do," he argued.

"It is inevitable that she will have care of children in the future, given her age.

"That makes personal deterrence particularly important in this case."

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