04 May, 2010

Baby Keiran

Nicole Wilkinson was 19 years old in 1996, an singe mother of two children. Her youngest son Keiran was born in January. His father Cory Campbell, who was 20 years old and unemployed, had lived with her and an on-and-off relationship for years. At best, she was described as an “inattentive and somewhat disinterested mother”. They seemed to have an arrangement where Cory was responsible for changing Keiran’s nappy and bathing him, while Nicole mainly looked after his older sister.

In late July 1996 Nicole noticed Keiran had a bruise on his ear. She asked Cory if he knew anything about it, and he said he thought Keiran’s sister had probably accidentally kicked him. Not much more was said or thought about it until Saturday August 3rd, when Cory told Nicole he had fallen over in the shower while giving Keiran a bath. Nicole then noticed two other bruises on Keiran over the next few days, which Cory said were due to the fall in the shower, and other ‘accidents’ that were normal for a baby his age.

Again, Nicole didn’t think much of it until Wednesday August 7 when she noticed Keiran was pale and wasn’t behaving normally. She said she wanted to take him to a doctor but Cory told her not to. They argued about this for a while, and in the end she decided not to go. On the next day Keiran seemed fine, apart from being constipated. But when she came home on Thursday 8th, she saw that Keiran was really pale, and he was moaning and groaning. Cory once more told her not to worry about it. The next day Keiran was even worse, and was not eating or drinking - Nicole started to worry that something was seriously wrong.

Nevertheless Nicole and Cory decided to spend the day smoking pot, until about 4pm when Nicole noticed Keiran had actually stopped breathing. She tried to resuscitate him, and called ‘000’. While they were on their way, she told Cory to tell police that the fall in the shower had happened on Wednesday, rather than Saturday.

Keiran could not be resuscitated. The post-mortem revealed that Keiran died of multiple injuries. Apart from several cuts and bruises on his face, his skull was seriously fractured, he had haemorrhages and other serious internal injuries, including a tear in the liver. There were a number of different bruises on the front of his abdomen, and a spiral fracture to his shinbone, which the pathologist estimated to be about 2-3 weeks old.

Both Cory and Nicole were charged with the manslaughter of Kieran. The basis of the charge was criminal negligence, in that they had both failed properly to protect Keiran’s well-being. They both pleaded not guilty and were to be tried together, until Cory made an application for a separate trial, which was granted. He then pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Nicole maintained her innocence and after a lengthy trial she was found guilty of manslaughter. There was no evidence from Cory, so the Judge was left in a situation where he could only guess how Keiran’s injuries were caused, or by whom. Given that Cory appeared to be the primary care-giver, he came to the conclusion that the child was at risk while he was in Cory’s care. However, his Honour also felt that the signs that something was seriously wrong with Keiran must have been obvious to Nicole, by Thursday afternoon at the latest. She should have also realised it was dangerous to leave Keiran in Cory’s care.

The Judge found that a reasonable person would have taken the child to a hospital or a doctor, and the failure to do so constituted criminal negligence. This neglect was compounded by their choice the next day, to indulge in a substance (pot) that would have made their ability to care for Keiran, or make sensible decisions about his health, even worse.

The Judge felt that Nicole had deliberately ignored the signs and dangers that must have been obvious to her. His Honour concluded that she was worried that she or Cory would get into trouble if they took their son to a hospital, given the obvious cuts, bruises and signs of illness. Basically, she was more concerned with her own interests (and Cory’s) than those of her child.
There was evidence that she had shown some distress to police on the afternoon of her son’s death, however there had been little sign of remorse since then. Although Cory was considered the more guilty of the two, given that even if he had not caused the injuries himself (which was unlikely) he was in a better position to observe the poor state of Keiran‘s health, the Judge found there was a balance of sorts in their level of responsibility.

Ironically, Cory showed more remorse than Nicole at the death of his son, which was also demonstrated in his decision to plead guilty.

Cory was sentenced to six years and six months in jail, with a non-parole period of three years.
Nicole was sentenced to six years and six months, with a non-parole period of three years and six months. She appealed this sentence on the basis that it should have been the same, or less than, Cory’s sentence.

The Appeal Court, despite finding that Cory was likely the more guilty of the two, noted that he was entitled to certain discounts in his sentence, due to his plea of guilty (sparing the cost and time of a trial), expressions of remorse, and had better prospects upon his eventual release to society.

Nicole, on the other hand, had gone to a full trial, displayed little remorse, and had not only seen what a bad condition Keiran was in and done nothing about it, but had also continued to leave him in a situation where it was quite likely these injuries were being caused. Further, she had let herself be talked out of seeking any medical help for her child by Cory. At her trial the defence led evidence from Dr White that Nicole had a dependent personality disorder, leading her to prioritise Cory in fear that he would leave her, however this was rejected as an excuse for her actions.

Nicole’s appeal was dismissed.

Cory Campbell was released on 21 January 2001. Nicole Wilkinson was released on 8 October 2001.

1 comment:

  1. I personally knew both parents of keiren. Keiren was born 2 days before my daughter and Nichole was to give him up for adoption until the hospital made her care for him until it was finalised. I think it stinks that they are out and she can continue to have more children it just goes to show what a rotten country we live in.You have named cory as the father in which he was not. There is a hell of a lot more to the story including the fact that Keiren's fingers were twisted broken. Nichole was never a nice person throughout the time that i knew her. Where is the justice for poor little Keiren who had such a short traumatic life.

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