Babysitter who seriously injured boy pleads for jail release to bond with her daughter

A babysitter who inflicted life-changing injuries on a three-year-old boy days after learning she was pregnant wants to be released from jail so she can be reunited with her daughter.

Xing Tong Shen and boyfriend Xi Zhang had an unwell friend’s son stay with them in May 2019 but the stint ended with the boy suffering a serious head injury that will affect the rest of his life.

The boy suffered the injury on May 8, 2019, at the couple’s Docklands apartment, the County Court heard on Tuesday. Two years on, he has reduced motor skills and a severe language disorder, and is at risk of cognitive impairment.

A paediatrician found the boy, now five, will have permanent cognitive, physical and social disabilities that will impair his quality of life and potential. He requires ongoing specialist treatments.

Prosecutors cannot say exactly how the boy was injured, but Shen, 25, admitted she hurt him while Zhang, 23, was complicit in an agreement that the child be disciplined while he stayed with them.

Both have pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years.

The boy also suffered bruising across his body, fractures to his left wrist and forearm, injuries to his right leg and a bite mark on his right forearm.

Shen and Zhang, who were in Australia as students, took the boy to hospital because he was convulsing, and they initially claimed he fell while playing on the boyfriend’s shoulders.

Police later discovered a hole in a wall in the apartment and say it is improbable that a fall caused that damage, which was more than one metre above the floor.

Shen remained in isolation in prison on Tuesday because she had been in close contact with an inmate who displayed coronavirus symptoms. Both women are awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests.

As Shen listened to her plea hearing on a mobile phone, her lawyer Hayden Rattray called for her punishment to be the two years she has already served, as her time in custody had been “extraordinarily onerous” since she gave birth 16 months ago.

Mr Rattray said Shen’s baby was immediately taken from her and was now in the care of her parents in China. Shen, her lawyer said, had missed her daughter’s first words and first steps and was concerned she might have missed the key period of bonding between a mother and child.

“It’s difficult to comprehend the hardship that must have befallen Ms Shen since she gave birth,” Mr Rattray said.

He called on judge Trevor Wraight to impose no more jail time so Shen could leave prison and go into immigration detention and await her deportation.

“Her almost sole focus now is her own betterment so she can contribute meaningfully to the life of her young child when she returns to China,” the lawyer said.

The couple’s lawyers said they were inexperienced, immature carers who were now remorseful, and their guilty plea had avoided a difficult trial.

Zhang’s lawyer, Jonathan Manning, said his client was filled with regret at not meeting his daughter and wanted to be a part of her life. The couple write letters to each other from their respective jails.

Prosecutor Sarah Thomas said the time the couple had spent in jail so far was insufficient given the boy’s serious injuries.

According to court documents, a cleaner in the apartment saw Shen pinch the boy’s lips on the night he was injured and heard her tell the child: “I will bash you.”

The cleaner later heard a loud bang against a wall.

Police also discovered on Shen’s phone video footage of the boy having liquid sprayed in his face while he was sleeping at 3am the day before he was injured. Laughing was then heard in the video.

Judge Wraight will sentence the couple next week.

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