A woman who left her ex-husband coated in faeces and lice while he battled cancer in their home let out a sigh in a Sydney courtroom on Friday as she was jailed for her actions.
In a long-awaited conclusion to a 10-year quest for justice, Libby Jade Baker was sentenced to at least three years behind bars in the NSW District Court on Friday.
The 44-year-old was found guilty of manslaughter last year after a judge-alone trial determined she was criminally negligent for failing to care for Johnathan Young in the months leading up to his death.
The 58-year-old had spent five months in Baker’s care as he battled rectal, liver and renal cancers before he died on October 16, 2012.
He was largely immobile and had difficulty communicating after suffering two debilitating strokes during the year, the court was told. Baker, his former partner, lived with him in order to care for him at home.
However, Judge Deborah Sweeney ruled that her poor caregiving had contributed to Mr Young’s death.
When a community services worker visited the North Richmond home in June, the court heard she was overwhelmed by “the pungent smell of faeces and rotting flesh”. She observed that Mr Young’s “skin was hanging from his bones”.
He was covered in lice and painful sores when he was admitted to hospital just 11 days before his death. An expert testified Mr Young had likely been subject to the untreated lice infestation for four to six weeks.
Medical professionals were appalled by his condition, with one nurse remarking “he looked dead”. The court heard Mr Young’s eyes were sunken and his body was covered in dark lesions when he was admitted.
Healthcare workers said the 58-year-old was severely malnourished and had dried faeces coated on his legs, the court heard. He had not been properly showered in weeks.
Multiple witnesses told the court he was “emaciated”, while a nurse observed he “looked like a skeleton”.
When the 58-year-old was admitted to hospital shortly before his death, “he was observed to be in the advanced stage of starvation” Judge Sweeney said.
A police officer was “shocked he was alive given his condition” and another said “he smelled like he was already deceased”.
Mr Young had necrotic, pus-filled and infected wounds over much of his body, which an expert testified would have taken weeks to fester.
One of the wounds was deep enough to expose muscle, while another pressure injury cut right down to the bone. The court heard many of the sores were a result of not being properly moved, and inadequate care.
“The wounds required medical attention before they reached the state they were in and that medical attention was not provided,” Judge Sweeney said.
She noted Baker had been at many of her ex-husband’s medical appointments with him and was aware he was bed bound and “physically incapable of caring for himself”.
Despite the high level of medical care required, the court heard Mr Young had not been to see a doctor in the two months before he was hospitalised in an sickening state.
Judge Deborah Sweeney determined Baker failed to provide her ex-husband with proper food, hygiene, and medical attention, which led to his death.
The court heard she could have engaged community nursing services or a medical practice where she previously worked for assistance in caring for Mr Young, but she refused.
“She said she was prepared and able to care for Mr Young at home with his high care needs,” Judge Sweeney said.
“She provided Mr Young with very little care.”
The judge slammed Baker’s “neglectful” behaviour, although she noted the 44-year-old had been dependent on heroin at the time.
The 44-year-old used heroin before she started caring for her ex-husband in 2010, but her drug use accelerated after the tragic death of her mother, who was severely beaten and killed by her partner.
Although the court heard she was attempting to wean herself off drugs, her lawyer accepted she had “not wholly rehabilitated herself since 2012”.
On Friday, Judge Sweeney sentenced the failed carer to five years’ imprisonment with a two year non-parole period for negligently breaching her duty of care to her ex-husband.
She will be eligible for release on December 20, 2025.
Baker sighed heavily with a resigned expression as the judge read out her sentence.
Her lawyer immediately applied for her conditional release until an appeal could be held, pointing to family responsibilities, injuries, and a lengthy legal process.
Judge Sweeney was not persuaded and refused bail.
The 44-year-old had her purple hair tied back in a tight ponytail as she blew kisses at her family in the courtroom.
“I love you,” she called sadly as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Baker has already signalled their intention to appeal. She will return to court on February 23, 2023 to set a date for a hearing.
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