A PORT Macquarie father was sentenced to eight and a half years jail yesterday for the manslaughter of his 14-month-old child.
Moments later, his one-time brother-in-law expressed relief at the sentence.
Peter James O'Brien, 53, was sentenced to a non-parole period of five years in Port Macquarie District Court by Judge David Freeman.
His former wife Jessie O'Brien was sentenced to a five-year jail term with a non-parole period of three years earlier this year for the same charge.
Jessie O'Brien's younger brother Luke Rhodes said he was satisfied that Peter O'Brien was found guilty and he was sentenced to a lengthy jail term.
He said he believed the longer sentence handed to Peter O'Brien indicated "Peter was more culpable" in the situation.
"We are just relieved that some of the truth has come out in his trial," Mr Rhodes said.
"We still believe that she (Jessie) shouldn't be where she is now."
O'Brien's trial began in Port Macquarie District Court on June 11 before a jury of eight women and four men. The jury returned the guilty verdict after just 50 minutes on June 17.
Police found the body of O'Brien's 14-month-old daughter in a vehicle near Raleigh on February 9, 2000. The discovery ended a statewide search for the child, after concerns she needed urgent medical attention.
A post mortem examination found the cause of death was malnutrition.
O'Brien offered little reaction as the sentence was handed down by Judge Freeman. Dressed in prison greens and white sandshoes, he rubbed his face as Judge Freeman spoke.
Three of O'Brien's family members looked on as he turned to see their reaction.
During the trial, crown prosecutor Wayne Creasey said O'Brien must have noticed something was wrong with the child.
His failure to seek medical assistance was such a gross departure from his duty of care that it amounted to a criminal act.
His barrister Leoni Flannery told jurors that her client was not told by anyone how sick the child was and that "he clearly believed the mother had the ability to look after their daughter".
During the week-long trial the court heard that in the days before the child's death, the O'Briens had sought the assistance of a naturopath near Bellingen.
In handing down the sentence Judge Freeman said O'Brien had enough indications that his youngest daughter was gravely ill to warrant action.
"The prisoner conceded he made the decision not to take the child to hospital, instead he took her out of NSW," Judge Freeman said.
"I accept the evidence of Jessie O'Brien that she wanted to take the baby to hospital but this wouldn't have been accepted by the prisoner.
"He held on to his peculiar belief that all doctors are quacks and he knew what was best for his child.
"He could see as well as anyone that the child was in poor health."
Judge Freeman said O'Brien's decision to perform a technique called Reiki on the child meant he massaged the baby's body.
He would have clearly seen the poor state of the child's skin.
"The Crown argued, rightly in my view ... that failure to seek medical attention was reprehensible in the extreme," he said.
"The protected trust imposed on the prisoner was sadly abused on this occasion.
"The tragedy is that intervention would have saved the child's life even up to the very last."
O'Brien's family declined to comment on the sentence.
O'Brien's sentence will expire on December 16, 2010. He will be eligible for release on June 16, 2007.