Weed-smoking mum let baby son die

Rebecca Denton neglected her baby. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Emma Brasier

A mum who failed to get medical help for her severely injured baby boy won’t spend any time in jail but will serve out her sentence on home detention.

The shocking instance of criminal neglect started when Rebecca Lea Denton came home from coffee with a friend on April 21, 2021 to find her three-week old baby boy Alvin severely injured. Her partner, Ashley McGregor, told her that he had knocked over the bassinet with the helpless baby inside, the court was told.

In the following hours, baby Alvin sported a swollen upper lip, failed to feed properly, seemed drowsy and emotionless at bathtime and could not open his left eye.

Judge Rauf Soulio, reading out Denton’s sentence at Adelaide District Court on Thursday, said Denton knew her son had suffered a traumatic event, but she “did not at that stage seek any medical treatment for him”.

Photos from before April 21 showed Alvin “thriving”, but after the alleged incident with Mr McGregor, there was a “visible change to his condition and state”.

On the afternoon of April 21, Judge Soulio said Alvin’s breathing was “rattly” and in the night he was unsettled and crying and he let out a “loud squealing cry, as if in pain”.

Then at 4.30am on April 23, Denton heard her baby boy make “chesty, gargling, grunting noises”, but she “did not seek to wake him”, Judge Soulio said.

Rebecca Denton didn’t seek medical care for her baby. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Morgan Sette

At 6.30am, Denton found the boy in his bassinet “cold and unresponsive”, the court was told.

She and Mr McGregor took him to a health service shortly after 7am, but medical staff could not revive him.

Medical staff noted bruising to his back and spine, Judge Soulio told the court, and under his left eye.

A post-mortem on Alvin found blunt cerebral trauma to be the cause of his death.

Judge Soulio emphasised there was no suggestion Denton caused any of Alvin’s injuries, only that she failed to secure medical help for him.

“Knowing that he had been injured, that his condition was deteriorating … you failed to provide or obtain medical care,” he said.

The court was told Alvin’s death had “impacted upon a number of people”, including Denton’s eldest son and Alvin’s teen brother.

Judge Soulio, referencing the teen’s victim impact statement, said the boy found it “difficult to cope with the grief he has felt”.

“He said he had experienced suicidal ideation in order to be with his little brother,” Judge Soulio said.

The court was told Denton used marijuana during Alvin’s pregnancy and Mr McGregor had suggested Alvin’s changes could be explained by cannabis withdrawal.

Denton blew cannabis smoke into the infant’s face.

A forensic psychologist analysed Denton and Judge Soulio said the health professional had concluded that Denton was remorseful about her offending and experienced an ongoing “grief reaction”.

She used marijuana during the baby’s pregnancy. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ben Clark

Denton, sitting in the dock, fought to hold back her tears throughout Judge Soulio’s remarks.

Her face quivered in apparent pain when the details of Alvin’s injuries were read out to the court.

The court was told Denton took responsibility for what she had failed to do.

Her psychological profile showed a person of low average intelligence with chronic low self-esteem, limited coping skills and a pathological fear of abandonment, Judge Soulio said.

Judge Soulio said he needed to take into account public safety and the necessity of public denunciation and deterrence when delivering a sentence.

He also said rehabilitation could serve community safety.

He sentenced Denton to four years and six months in prison with a non-parole period of two years and six months, citing “exceptional circumstances”.

He ordered Denton to serve out the sentence in home detention.

Police have charged Mr McGregor with manslaughter over Alvin’s death and he is set to face a judge-only trial in 2025.

Denton will give evidence on behalf of the prosecution at Mr McGregor’s trial.