BALLARAT parents imprisoned their young children by locking them in their rooms, sometimes for hours on end without food, water or ventilation, a court has heard.
The parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared in the County Court at Ballarat on Thursday where they each pleaded guilty to almost 20 charges of false imprisonment.
The children’s stepfather also pleaded guilty to charges of recklessly causing injury, with the court hearing he often hit and kicked the children and on one occasion held their hands over the top of ignited stove burners.
Crown prosecutor Tim Hoare said the offending, which targeted the mother’s three young biological children, began in 2009 when they moved to their home in Ballarat.
“Sometime within two to three months of their arrival at this house, (the stepfather) replaced the door handle ... with a handle with a locking mechanism,” Mr Hoare said.
“This locking door handle was fixed in reverse to enable the door to be locked from outside.”
The court heard the children were often locked in their rooms, sometimes for more than eight hours, left trying desperately to escape.
“On one occasion in summer the boys were locked in the bedroom during the day without water and broke their bedroom window whilst trying to open it to get some fresh air,” Mr Hoare said.
“Similarly, they were unable to exit their room to get additional clothing or bedding on colder nights or in winter to stay warm.”
Mr Hoare said the children were forced to use a bucket in the room as a toilet, with one of them made to clean it out each morning.
Jon Irwin, representing the parents, said his clients were “very aware” of the serious nature of the offending.
“This is very, very serious offending on so many levels,” Mr Irwin said.
“But it wasn’t just a case of here are some children, let’s be horrible to them.”
Mr Irwin said the children were often very difficult to control, with the parents unable to find appropriate methods of discipline.
He said the parents had had difficult upbringings too, themselves unaware of how to properly control children.
Judge Liz Gaynor agreed with Mr Irwin, adding she wasn’t trying to “minimise “ the offending.
“It’s not sadistic,” Judge Gaynor said.
“It’s not going after them because he enjoyed it.”
The pair will be sentenced on June 6.