Hamersley mother avoids jail sentence for smothering baby son with pillow

Defence lawyer Neish Rados helps Julia Betrenko into a car after the hearing. Picture: Mark Donaldson
Defence lawyer Neish Rados helps Julia Betrenko into a car after the hearing. Picture: Mark Donaldson

A YOUNG mother had been using methamphetamine in the days prior to her attempting to smother her 18-month-old son with a pillow in Hamersley last year, Joondalup Magistrates Court has heard.

Julia Olya Butrenko was sentenced today after pleading guilty to a charge of “acts or omissions likely to endanger life, health or safety”.

The offender, aged in her 20s, avoided jail, with Magistrate Deen Potter handing her a 12-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.

The court heard Butrenko attempted to suffocate her son while she was changing his nappy about 9pm on September 10.

The prosecutor said Butrenko’s mother saved her grandson after she “heard a commotion” in the room.

The offender was held in custody for nearly a month after her arrest.

The son is now in the custody of his grandmother, with Butrenko allowed to interact with him.

The mother cried throughout the hearing as her lawyer Neish Rados described a woman with significant mental health problems and methamphetamine addiction.

She said she had not been using the drug on the day of the crime, but had done so in days prior.

Outside court, Ms Rados said her client looked at her son with guilt everyday.

“She loves her son… she does not understand what she did that day”.

At the time of the offence, Butrenko was in a “heightened emotional state to the point where she was unable to control or even understand what was happening”.

“Her concern was mainly for her son, as strange as it may sound,” Ms Rados said.

“She has quite significant psychological issues and she quite simply did not want her son to live in that way.”

In court, the police prosecutor pressed for an immediate prison sentence on the grounds that drug addiction and mental illness were not good enough reasons to avoid jail for such a significant crime.

“It’s overwhelming for a parent to think that this occurred,” she said.

She said Butrenko had failed drug tests since the ordeal.

Mr Potter told Butrenko it was “quite clearly very lucky your mother was present… to stop anything more significant occurring”.

He acknowledged Butrenko had engaged with multiple agencies to aid in her recovery and said “very little” would get “resolved by an immediate term of imprisonment”.

She would soon attend a drug rehabilitation clinic.

If she was caught using drugs it would breach her suspended sentence.

Ms Rados said Butrenko’s son, now aged two, was “absolutely gorgeous” and doing “very well”.