The parents convicted of being accessories to the attempted murder and assault on their 2-month-old twins, which resulted in the boy suffering permanent brain damage, were spared jail by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.
Acknowledging that what happened was horrific, Judge Eben Jordaan said sending the parents to jail would leave the children destitute. The pair will be subjected to house arrest and community service.
The 28-year-old father from Rayton, east of Pretoria, is financially contributing to the care of the twins while the 26-year-old mother, who is living with her parents, is taking care of the children. She is the primary caregiver of the boy, now aged 5.
While his sister was also assaulted in 2012, she did not suffer lasting physical effects. She suffered cracked ribs and bruises.
The names of the parents may not be made public to protect the identity of their children.
The boy was left severely disabled after he suffered a cracked skull and bleeding on the brain. He cannot walk, talk, see or chew.
His mother has to take care of him around the clock.
The children were assaulted while the then couple visited the man’s parents in Rayton.
The boy, identified as Baby J, was examined on Christmas morning 2012 by doctors who said it was clear the damage was due to severe blunt force trauma. He also had bruises on his fingers, ears and bottom.
His sister suffered several broken ribs and X-rays revealed that some of the fractures were healing.
According to medical evidence, severe force had to be applied to her to break her ribs, as a babies' ribs were flexible.
The parents, who claimed they had no idea how their twins got injured, earlier stormed out of court after their conviction.
They are now separated and sat far apart in the dock and never spoke.
While standing trial, the mother received permission from the Children’s Court to care of her twins, together with her parents.
The judge earlier remarked that the assault was in all probability inflicted by the parents in a fit of rage.
During sentencing, he remarked that he understood that the prosecution called for a jail sentence, but he said the best interests of the children had to be considered.
He said it was not possible to say which of the two assaulted the twins.
He, however, found that both of them know what happened. The judge found that one, or both, inflicted the harm on the defenceless infants.
Judge Jordaan sentenced the pair to five years' imprisonment, suspended for five years, as well as to three years correctional supervision. They will undergo rehabilitation programmes.