Desiree Anne Wright
From NZ Herald story 3rd May 2001
A mentally disturbed mother who killed her baby has had her prison sentence cut almost in half because her mental state was not adequately recognised. Desiree Anne Wright suffered from the controversial psychiatric disorder Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP). She killed her 8-month-old son to get attention.The 23-year-old woman was sentenced to seven years imprisonment last December for smothering River Michael Wiremu Manawatu-Wright to death. The Court of Appeal yesterday reduced that to four years.
The court ruled that the allowance made for her mental condition was "manifestly inadequate," and that other mitigating features such as her confession and guilty plea had not been properly taken into account. Wright's lawyer, Barry Hart, said it was a landmark decision for which defence lawyers had been waiting. "This case is really important because it deals with the issue of whether credit should be given to people who commit this type of serious offending when they're suffering from some form of medical disorder falling short of insanity," Mr Hart said.
River's death was initially put down to cot death, but five months later Wright walked into the Te Awamutu Police Station and confessed. In the last six week's of his life, River's health was jeopardised 18 times by his mother who felt that the child took attention from her. MSBP was a mental disorder undergoing further research, but it was not officially regarded as a mental illness by psychiatrists, according to Auckland University's forensic psychiatry lecturer. Dr Sandy Simpson warned that the judgement should not be seen as the courts giving credit to all who suffer from mental disorders.
"It's not as simple as saying because someone has a mental disorder they should have some degree of mitigation." Although Dr Simpson believed the court was right to reduce the sentence in this instance, MSBP was internationally regarded as being a form of child abuse which could be treated, rather than a mental illness. Children's Agenda spokesperson Garry Glanville believed the decision implied that less value was placed on children's lives."[MSBP] is a form of child abuse and it doesn't excuse anything. "I would have to say that it's interesting ... that the law itself tends to excuse parents who harm their children," Mr Glanville said.
Date of Birth
1977 (D.O.B. is approximate)
Kaitangita, Clutha district
Sentenced to 7 years in December 2000, later reduced to 4 years on appeal
Since released and is now believed to be in Palmerston North and progressing well with her rehabilitation
Additional Photos & Files
Associated Media Links Desiree Anne Wright Sentencing Notes
Killer's sentence reduced
OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
|Event Date||Event||Court Location||Offence Type||Offence Date||Committed While||Sentence Imposed|
|02-05-2001||Appeal hearing||Court of Appeal Wellington||Manslaughter||19-08-1999||4 Years, Imprisonment||▼|