Couple fight jailing over baby's death

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am

A couple sentenced to 10 years in prison for causing the death of their four-month-old child have appealed against their convictions.

Lam Wai-shu, 28, and Chiu Mei-sze, 34, were found guilty in the Court of First Instance of manslaughter in July last year.

They had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of cruelty to a child under 16.

Iris Lam Lok-yan, who was born several weeks premature, died from brain injuries and pneumonia on December 5, 2003. She had been given a clean bill of health after a hospital check-up 22 days before.

A postmortem examination had turned up no less than 64 bruises across the child's body, 11 scabbed wounds, retinal haemorrhage in both eyes and four cuts to the lips.

Lam told police he had variously placed a rolled up towel in the baby's mouth, covered her head with a cushion, shaken her, held her upside down and threatened to put her in the fridge to try to stop her crying.

John McNamara, for Lam, told the Court of Appeal - consisting of Chief Judge of the High Court Mr Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, vice-president Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore and Madam Justice Clare-Marie Beeson - that it appeared from discussions immediately following the verdict that the jury had not understood the trial judge's directions.

Although they agreed unanimously that Lam was guilty of manslaughter, the jury was split four-to-three as to whether it was manslaughter by unlawful act, or due to gross negligence.

They had been specifically instructed to decide which of those two options it was, he said.

'We can't know whether some, or all, or none of them would have convicted him' if they were forced to come to a decision on one or the other option, Mr McNamara said.

Peter Callaghan, for Chiu, alleged that the jury had been misdirected about how to treat an earlier statement by his client to police in which she suggested the baby's head injuries had been received while the infant was rolling around on the floor.

He suggested that because the judge instructed the jury to consider that statement alongside Chiu's testimony during the trial that the injuries were caused by Lam throwing the baby into a cot or pram, the jurors may have drawn an inference that she was lying.

The court reserved its decision.