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Ashlee Polkinghorne and Ben McPartland receive four-year minimum jail term for motorbike death of four-year-old Chloe Valentine

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Ashlee Polkinghorne and Ben McPartland receive four-year minimum jail term for motorbike death of four-year-old Chloe Valentine

The Advertiser
Tessa Ackerman
April 3,2014

Court-released image of Chloe Valentine.


Court-released image of Chloe Valentine.
Source: News Corp Australia

FAMILIES and friends of Chloe Valentine pleaded with authorities to remove the four-year-old toddler from her mother in the lead-up to her death.

Ashlee Jean Polkinghorne, 22, and Benjamin Robert McPartland, 28, were each sentenced to just over four years non-parole in the Supreme Court yesterday.

The court heard Chloe was repeatedly put on a 50kg motorbike over three days in January 2012 and forced to get back on, the bike despite suffering several injuries.

Polkinghorne filmed her terrified daughter on the motorbike and later left the hospital before Chloe died, after her life support was switched off.

Family member Tricia Foord said close to 200 reports had been made to Families SA going back to when Polkinghorne was six months pregnant at the age of 15.

“She was living a transient life — drugs, alcohol,” Ms Foord said.

“I do know that Families SA got involved a little bit, but never enough.

“Remove the child — that’s all we wanted ... plenty of family wanted to take that child and put her in a safe place,” she said. “That didn’t happen.”

Girl's tragic back yard death 2:17

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Home video footage of Chloe Valentine, who died after repeatedly falling off a motorbike in her mothers back yard in suburban Adelaide.

 
Ms Foord said some of the reports concerning Polkinghorne “were pretty bad”.

She said Polkinghorne gave Chloe boiled water as a baby instead of formula milk and once left her in her pram at Modbury Interchange while she did the shopping.

“We lived it, we saw it, we heard stuff,” she said.

“A lot of people were involved. The child should have been removed.”

In his victim impact statement, the partner of Polkinghorne’s mother said Polkinghorne would make jokes about visits by Families SA.

Steven Harvey said Polkinghorne would talk about how dumb they were and how easy it was to con them.

An Education and Child Development Department spokeswoman said while the family were known to Families SA and receiving support, Polkinghorne and Chloe were the subject of only 22 notifications.

Ashlee Polkinghorne leaves the District Court.

Ashlee Polkinghorne leaves the District Court during an earlier hearing.

The spokeswoman said Chloe and Polkinghorne were referred to the Safe Babies Program in 2007 and worked with the program for three years.

She said when notifications were raised a non-government organisation became involved and provided respite for Chloe and her family.

She said Families SA made a home visit in August 2011 and interactions between Chloe and her mother were “observed to be good, the house was clean and in good condition”.

She said the next notification was in January 2012, which advised Chloe had been taken to hospital.

In sentencing the pair on Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Trish Kelly said Polkinghorne and McPartland had provided conflicting versions of what happened, with each continuing to blame the other.

Justice Kelly said in mid-January a 50cc dirt bike was bought for Chloe, who was four years of age.

The motorbike weighed over 50kg while Chloe weighed 17kg. She could not hold it up or put her feet on the ground when sitting on the machine.

Ben McPartland leaves the District Court during an earlier hearing.

Ben McPartland leaves the District Court during an earlier hearing.

“The bike was far too big for her ... she could not stop the bike without falling off it to the ground,” said Justice Kelly.

In videos taken by Polkinghorne and shown to the court, McPartland was seen “virtually throwing Chloe back on the bike”.

“Chloe was not enthusiastic to get back on that bike as you, Mr McPartland, claimed,” she said.

“You said she wanted to ride that bike.”

Justice Kelly said there were reports of McPartland washing Chloe’s mouth out with soap and placing a camera in her bedroom which was used “to frighten her into submission”.

“Chloe was frightened of you and that explains why this four-year-old child got back on that bike again and again,” she said.

“This was no one-off incident caused by a young man who didn’t know any better. You simply did not care.”

Couple jailed for girl's motorbike death 1:14

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A mother who filmed her four-year-old daughter falling off a motorbike has been jailed for manslaughter.

Justice Kelly said when Chloe crashed into a lemon tree on Tuesday, January 17, it was estimated her speed on the motorbike was 40km/h.

As her mother, Polkinghorne should have been the person who, above all others, Chloe was entitled to expect nurturing and care, she said.

Polkinghorne admitted that she saw bruising on Chloe that night and McPartland saw bruises the next morning.

Justice Kelly said Polkinghorne said that, after hitting the lemon tree, Chloe could hardly sleep and was complaining of being sore.

But it wasn’t until 11.58pm on the following night — Thursday, January 19 — that medical help was sought after Chloe stopped breathing.

Justice Kelly said even after Chloe was rendered unconscious, Polkinghorne and McPartland waited around eight and a half hours before calling an ambulance.

During this time, they went on Facebook, smoked cannabis and Googled what to do with an unconscious person.(Brain Damage)

Court-released image of Chloe Valentine.

Court-released image of Chloe Valentine.

“You were prepared to allow your child to die, rather than exercise any parental responsibility,” Justice Kelly said.

“Unfortunately for Chloe Valentine, your home was a dangerous place.”

During sentencing submissions last week, the court heard that when Chloe was taken to hospital, McPartland and Polkinghorne left before Chloe died when her life support was turned off.

Justice Kelly said it was “inevitable” that McPartland would meet Polkinghorne — “an equally dysfunctional woman”.

She described Polkinghorne as manipulative and narcissistic and said any child of hers would be at risk if she did not receive psychiatric help.

Polkinghorne was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment and set a non-parole period of four years and nine months.

Justice Kelly sentenced McPartland to seven years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of four years and two months.

Tricia Foord speaks outside the District Court about the sentencing of Ashlee Polkinghorn

Tricia Foord speaks outside the District Court about the sentencing of Ashlee Polkinghorne and Benjamin McPartland.

Wearing yellow ribbons, Chloe’s favourite colour, supporters of Chloe applauded as the pair were sentenced.

One man called out “now you know how Chloe felt”.

Outside of court, observer Trish Foord said the pair did not take responsibility for what they did.

“They didn’t look remorseful to me, not one bit,” she said.

“I thought that the time they got was appropriate.”

She said Families SA had not done enough to help Chloe considering Polkinghorne was reported to Families SA “probably more than a hundred (times)”.

“Remove the child, that’s all we wanted ... plenty of family wanted to take that child and put her in a safe place,” she said. “That didn’t happen.”

Ms Foord said she would have sentenced the pair to life imprisonment.

“She was a little four-year-old girl. She did nothing wrong.”

ANALYSIS

Heinous crime was hard to categorise

By TESSA AKERMAN and ANDREW DOWDELL

THE crime of manslaughter has one of the broadest definitions in the criminal dictionary.

It covers pranks gone wrong and coward punches to something just shy of murder.

There is no mandatory minimum term for manslaughter and sentences can range from a suspended sentence to life imprisonment.

Judges are faced with the perplexing task of crafting a sentence for such a wide array of circumstances.

The sentencing of McPartland and Polkinghorne, as with all sentences passed down in emotive cases such as when a child’s life is lost, drew mixed responses from people in the court. Supporter Tricia Foord thought the sentences were appropriate but said she would have sentenced them to life imprisonment.

 

TRAGEDY: Chloe Valentine. Picture: Facebook

TRAGEDY: Chloe Valentine. Picture: Facebook Source: Supplied

As one of South Australia’s most respected judges, Justice Trish Kelly has presided over some of the state’s most harrowing cases, including sentencing Quorn axe murderer Jose Omonte-Extrada last November. Justice Kelly said the video tendered to the court of Chloe opening her Christmas presents was “utterly chilling.”

“This was a plainly frightened child on Christmas Day.”

While emotions inevitably run high and rightfully so, it’s important to judges such as Justice Kelly to consider factors such as potential for rehabilitation and early pleas.

Justice Kelly said the pair’s negligence of Chloe was a course of conduct and not an isolated incident. She said the case was a very serious form of manslaughter by criminal neglect. She started at nine years but reduced the pair’s sentences due to their guilty pleas.

McPartland’s sentence was reduced to seven years compared to Polkinghorne’s eight, as he entered his plea last year.

Justice Kelly declined to suspend the pair’s sentences.

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