Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joanna Hill sentenced to life in prison

London, UK - On September 9, FRIDA reported on the death by drowning of 4-year-old Naomi Hill, who had cerebral palsy, by her mother, Joanna Hill. Yesterday, Reuters reported that Joanna Hill, 32, has been convicted of murdering her daughter and sentenced to life in prison. Ms Hill admitted drowning her daughter in the bath last November because she was ashamed of her disability, but denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility. However, this plea was rejected by the jury, who found her guilty of murder. She will not be eligible for parole for at least 15 years. Addressing the court after it handed down its verdict, Judge Elgan Edwards told Ms Hill :

You could not cope with the child’s disability such as it was. You had other pressures upon you such as a disintegrating marriage and you decided to kill your own daughter by drowning.

There can be no excuse for what you did. I’m afraid you must now pay the penalty.

Following the sentence, the disability rights organization Scope, which focuses on people with cerebral palsy, warned that negative portrayals of disability were creating "shame and stigma." Chair Alice Maynard said:

"Naomi's death is a tragedy."

"However, this case raises the wider issue of how many disabled parents still don't get the support they need in bringing up children and how society continues to portray disability in a negative light, creating shame and stigma around impairment.

Tragically, in this instance, this combination of factors proved lethal."

Community reports that the case prompted North Wales NHS Trust to carry out an interim review of the care and treatment Joanne Hill received prior to the incident. A spokesperson for the trust said that a “number of recommendations” had already been implemented to improve operational policies, adding that a full review of the case would be carried out by the Flintshire Safeguarding Children Board.

Related stories:
Mother drowned disabled daughter in bath

British mom sentenced for drowning disabled daughter out of shame