1 March 2023

Babysitter found guilty of choking autistic and non-verbal four-year-old boy

| Albert McKnight
man with pink dyed hair outside court

Scott Brian Southwell-Millard, 30, leaves court after being found guilty of a choking charge. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A babysitter was seen putting his head in his hands when he was found guilty of choking a non-verbal four-year-old autistic boy.

The boy’s mother asked her friend, Scott Brian Southwell-Millard, to look after her children when she went out one night in April 2022, the ACT Magistrates Court heard.

When she returned home, she became worried about her son and told the court her babysitter had “come up with some story of [her son] having a meltdown” and told her the boy had vomited up plastic.

She saw he had pink dots on his body and bruises on his neck, so she called an ambulance.

Southwell-Millard was charged with choking and assault over two alleged incidents, both of which were captured on closed-circuit television (CCTV). He fought the allegations at a hearing before Magistrate Louise Taylor handed down her decision on Wednesday (1 March).

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The pair had been in the loungeroom when he grabbed and held onto the boy’s neck while the boy tried to break free.

The magistrate said he gave no real explanation for this, saying he had told the court the boy “might have had something in his mouth”, but he had also said, “I don’t recall what I was doing there”.

She said it appeared he had been trying to get the boy to drink from a bottle and the action was inconsistent with him being concerned that there was something in the boy’s mouth.

She said the conduct did not accord with community standards, thought it to be “excessive and unnecessary”, and found the charge of choking, suffocation or strangulation to have been proven.

The assault charge involved Southwell-Millard allegedly pulling the boy off the bed in his sister’s room and grabbing at his face, but Magistrate Taylor said nothing he had done here was beyond standard parenting and she thought he was trying to remove something from the boy’s mouth.

The magistrate thought he had given a reasonable basis for not wanting the boy to be in his sister’s bedroom, as it was a haven for items the boy liked to put in his mouth.

He also said the boy would often not voluntarily give up the items in his mouth. Magistrate Taylor found the assault charge hadn’t been proven.

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The mother had said her son communicated via gestures, was high-sensory, liked to chew on items and described him as “living in his own little bubble”. He depends on her for his care.

Magistrate Taylor said it seemed very odd that the mother would leave Southwell-Millard to care for her son when the boy avoided him, he had never cared for her children before and she hadn’t given him instructions on what to do.

She continued the 30-year-old’s bail and adjourned to 6 March for sentencing.

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