Suspended sentence for mother who gave young child morphine

PUBLISHED: 15:26 11 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:39 11 September 2017

Exeter Crown Court.

Exeter Crown Court.

Archant

A woman who gave a young child a potentially fatal morphine overdose in hospital tried to blame the boy’s father for the poison attack.

The 21-year-old used powerful painkilling pills to spike bottles of Lucozade and Fruit Shoot which she left with the child when she visited him over a period of three days at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

The toddler needed emergency treatment in a paediatric high dependency unit after his breathing slowed down and he almost lost consciousness.

Doctors realised what was happening when the boy’s urine tested positive for opiates and nurses removed the Fruit Shoot bottle for testing.

It contained morphine at a level that was four times the maximum safe dose for a child of that age and could even have been fatal to an adult weighing 11 stone.

The woman lied to medical staff about poisoning the child and accused the boy’s natural father of bringing the spiked drinks into hospital.

She was suffering from a psychological disorder which made her believe the drugs were helping rather than harming the child.

The woman from Seaton, East Devon, admitted administering a poison or noxious substance with intent to endanger life in February last year.

She was jailed for two years, suspended for two years, and ordered to receive psychiatric counselling as part of 35 days of rehabilitation activities by Recorder Mr David Bartlett at Exeter Crown Court.

He told her: “It may be this was done with the best of intentions. It was certainly reckless and you failed to consider the effect of administering morphine to the child without knowing what it might do. You risked his life in those few days.

“These actions compounded your refusal to accept that only nursing staff should administer drinks. You still tried to force the child to take a blackcurrant drink which contained morphine.

“You tried to push the blame on to the child’s father, saying he must have brought in the Fruit Shoot bottle spiked with morphine. You said that to doctors and the police. It was a lie, and a wicked lie, and that aggravates the offence very much.

“What you were doing, in a misguided way, and I stress the word misguided, arose from your concern for the child. You did not think of the consequence of giving him that quantity of morphine.

“That was very reckless. I am persuaded your actions were intended to assist the boy rather than harm him. The prosecution accept there was no intention to cause serious harm but you must recognise there was an undoubted risk.”

The recorder said he was able to suspend the sentence because the woman now admits what she did, is remorseful, and is receiving psychiatric help.

Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said the toddler was admitted to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in February 2016.

His condition initially improved but then deteriorated rapidly after he drank the a Lucozade bottle and a Fruit Shoot brought in by the defendant.

Tests showed he had traces of morphine in his urine and she was told not to give him any more drinks but was found trying to make him consume a cup of blackcurrant juice which she had mixed in a toilet cubicle.

She denied poisoning the child and claimed the spiked drink had been brought in by the boy’s natural father. She was found with an empty bottle of the orally taken painkiller Oramorph, which should have been half full.

Miss Kelly Scrivener, defending, said her client has already suffered severe consequences from her actions but has turned a corner in her life by accepting she needs help and treatment.

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