Jail for father who continued gaming after fatally injuring baby son

The Age

By Adam Cooper

December 15, 2020

A young man who fatally injured his baby son and continued playing PlayStation has been jailed for nine years.

Joseph McDonald either violently shook or caused blunt force trauma to the head of seven-week-old son Lucas on October 24 last year at their Benalla home, and over the following hours continued gaming as family members came to visit.

McDonald had a burst of anger related to his daily use of cannabis and hisaddiction to gaming, which occupied him for up to 10 hours a day, the Supreme Court heard.

Lucas appeared dazed and unsettled that night and the next day his mother, Samantha Duckmanton, took him to hospital, where he was found to be lethargic, pale and floppy. His condition worsened and he died a further four days later.

The day after the baby's death hospital staff told his family the injuries were not accidental and McDonald admitted to Ms Duckmanton he pushed too hard on Lucas' head and neck because the baby wouldn't stop crying.

But as Ms Duckmanton spoke to McDonald's father, the killer fled and spent several days on the run. He handed himself into police and was charged with murder, and eventually pleaded guilty to child homicide, an offence similar to manslaughter which relates to children aged under six.

Justice Stephen Kaye on Tuesday ordered McDonald, 23, must serve six years and eight months before he was eligible for parole.

He said Lucas was denied the right to grow into an adult and had deserved to be treated with tenderness, love and care.

"Instead, by your actions, you took his life from him and, by doing so, you have inflicted irreparable pain and grief on those who loved him and in particular on his mother and your partner, Samantha," the judge told McDonald.

"Your senseless and irresponsible act of angry violence deprived him of his most basic right, his right to life."

McDonald had long-standing anger management problems, Justice Kaye said, which were borne out of his addictions to gaming and cannabis. The former was so bad he had been diagnosed with an internet gaming disorder.

"Those two factors do not excuse or mitigate your offence at all," the judge said.

"Rather they provide an explanation for what you did. In short, your actions, which resulted in Lucas' death, occurred in a burst of anger that was inflamed by your indulgence in those two addictions."

McDonald never divulged exactly what happened while he was with Lucas and his crime was aggravated by his failure to tell Ms Duckmanton or medical staff.

While there was no evidence his evasiveness caused Lucas further harm, Justice Kaye found it "bespoke of a shameful degree of selfishness and callousness on your part.

The judge acknowledged McDonald's plea of guilty spared family members giving evidence at trial and showed some remorse.

The former timber mill worker had shown signs of depression and anxiety in prison because he was vulnerable in custody given the nature of his crime, and that the coronavirus had prevented him from receiving visits.

He has served 410 days since his arrest which will count towards his sentence.

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