Mother of 7 who drove into lake killing 3 toddlers wants early release because she was ‘stressed about debt’

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A mother who killed her three children and attempted to murder another has argued for early prison release because she was "stressed about debt" at the time, reports state. The mother, Akon Guode — a widow with seven children — killed her four-year-old twins, 16-month-old son and tried to kill another one of her children when she drove her car, with her children in it, into Wyndham Vale lake, Victoria, Australia, in 2015. 

Guode’s lawyer, Paul Holdenson QC, while addressing the court on Thursday, September 24, said that his client's original sentencing was "manifestly excessive." Goude, a South Sudanese refugee, was sentenced 26 and a half years in prison after she pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of infanticide. Under Victorian law, infanticide is a crime that can only be committed by women. It involves the death of a child under the age of two at the hands of the mother whose mental balance has been disturbed because she failed to fully recover from birth.

The Court of Appeals, however, had overturned her sentencing and a reduced sentence of 18 years was enforced. The Court of Appeals took Guode's trauma and severe depression from witnessing the war in South Sudan into account. 

Her lawyer said: "At the end of the day his honor failed to give effect to his stated intention of giving significant weight to the principles of totality and mercy." Holdenson added that the mother's case was different than other cases of parents killing their children because there was no motive of malice, hate or revenge. The lawyer gave examples, saying it was "wholly distinguishable" from the cases of Robert Farquharson and Donna Fitchett, where Farquharson was convicted of killing his three sons in 2007 on father's day to get back at his former wife, while Fitchett drugged and murdered her two sons in September 2005. 

Meanwhile, during Guode's hearing, the court was told that she drove her car into the lake at a time when her mental functioning was affected because of the recent birth of her youngest son. The mother-of-seven had reportedly been struggling to cope with her debt and was being pursued by debt collectors.

A psychiatric report in Guode's case had previously found that the widowed mother had symptoms of post-traumatic stress order as well as having a "major depressive disorder." The state’s Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC, however, argued that the crime committed by the mother was "heinous" and that the original sentence by the court had taken into account mercy, and her mental state at the time of the tragedy, the Sun reported. 

"Given the heinous nature of this offending mercy has been shown, and a significant weight was given to the mental health issues.” Judd continued that Guode’s disadvantaged background had been taken into account, however, it was important that other sentencing principles were not ignored while reaching a verdict. The Court of Appeals, in the light of the recent appeal, has reserved their decision for a later date. 

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