SYDNEY – An Australian couple, who fed their baby daughter a strict vegan diet resulting in severe malnourishment, have avoided jail time, according to CNN affiliate Seven News.
The mother and father, who are both in their 30s and who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to failing to provide necessities in life and causing injury to the child. The couple were sentenced to a 18-month jail term to be served as a community order.
Authorities discovered the couple’s child so malnourished that at 19 months she weighed just 4.9 kilograms (10.8 pounds).
Further medical tests revealed that her bones had not developed since birth. Her development was so stunted she didn’t even have any teeth, Seven News reported.
Her parents said they had kept the girl on a strict vegan diet. The child hadn’t been vaccinated and hadn’t received any medical care since birth, reported CNN affiliate Nine News.
The Sydney judge overseeing the case, Judge Sarah Huggett, called the child’s vegan diet “completely inadequate” — the child was only fed oats, bananas, peanut butter jelly sandwiches and rice, Seven News reported.
“This is not the case of an isolated act or omission or a momentary decision made in a pressured context, that led to a danger of serious injury to their child,” Huggett said, according to Seven News.
“Neither offender was particularly young, immature, uneducated or inexperienced as a parent or caregiver to young children.”
However, Hugget also said she believed the crime was committed out of recklessness rather than malice, and that the mother may have been dealing with a depressive mental illness at the time, Nine News reported.
On top of the community service, the parents must now complete parenting and nutrition programs.
The little girl, now aged three, has been placed under the care of a relative, and has reportedly made progress in her development. She has since been vaccinated, and is undergoing speech therapy and physiotherapy, according to Seven News.