A Queensland stay-at-home mother has escaped jail time after being convicted of assaulting her baby daughter by cutting off the infant's air supply, despite a judge describing the act as "an attack on a defenceless victim".
A Brisbane Supreme Court jury on Wednesday found Ashleigh Meagan Watterson not guilty of two counts of attempted murder, as well as an alternative charge of grievous bodily harm, but convicted her of assaulting four-month-old Sarah in October 2010.
Justice Martin Burns sentenced her to two years' imprisonment, wholly suspended for a period of five years, for deliberately cutting off the infant's air supply.
"This was an attack on a defenceless victim in your sole care and clearly constituted a gross breach of trust," Justice Burns said in sentencing the 30-year-old for assault occasioning bodily harm.
"This (assault) caused your baby considerable distress and interfered with her health and comfort."
However, he noted the infant did not sustain any permanent injuries as a result of the attack, along with Watterson's previously clean criminal record.
He said it was still unclear why Watterson assaulted her child, despite references during the trial to her grief following the loss of a another child before Sarah's birth.
"I do not accept that any such stress or grief explains in any way an attack on a four-month-old baby in your care," Justice Burns said.
Sarah died in March 2012 from unknown causes that were not part of the allegations against Watterson.
The trial had heard after being charged Watterson told police she had been "possessed" and tried to stop Sarah's breathing on three occasions.
But in her testimony, Watterson said she lied about harming Sarah because she wanted to be "locked up" and spare her Christian family the trauma of criminal proceedings.
"Because I did not want to commit suicide, I thought of a way of ending the whole turmoil for my family," she said.
The court heard this led Ms Watterson to give false statements to police even though she knew she "hadn't done anything to Sarah".
She also said the content of messages and conversations before the court, alleged by the prosecution to be admissions of guilt, was "completely incorrect".
Asked why she did this, Watterson said: "Because I wanted it to come to an end for my family. I wanted to be locked up."
Watterson did not comment to waiting media as she walked from the court precinct with her legal team.