Child abuse: Father and girlfriend jailed for prolonged serious cruelty against three children

Warning: This article contains distressing content.

Three children had their heads stomped on, fingers bashed with a hammer, were punched and kicked, locked in their rooms, and fed just one meal a day in ”a pattern of cruel treatment” in their home.

The perpetrators – their father and his girlfriend – are now behind bars for three and a half years and three years respectively.

The “very serious” and “sad” case of child abuse was made public recently when the man and woman were sentenced in Rotorua District Court.

The pair earlier pleaded guilty to 11 charges each including ill-treating a child, injuring with intent to injure, assault with a weapon and threatening to kill.

Judge Greg Hollister-Jones granted the couple permanent identity suppression to prevent any further suffering of the children.

The children cannot be identified by law therefore some details of the case have not been published in this article.

Judge Hollister-Jones, in his sentencing remarks, outlined the “pattern of cruel treatment involving repeated physical assaults”.

The children had been in foster care and were placed back in the care of their father.

“Your three children were traumatised at the time they came into your care … they’d been in foster care so they were very vulnerable,” Judge Hollister-Jones told the father.

He said the children had behaviourial issues.

The ill-treatment charges revolved around keeping the children in their rooms for the day and only feeding them once.

Judge Hollister-Jones said this pattern would go on for days on end and resulted in the children being hungry and emotionally neglected.

With the eldest, there was a pattern of the child being repeatedly punched in the face, head, stomach and legs.

“You would punch [the child] when you thought [the child] got lippy.”

One of the more serious assaults was when the father gripped the oldest child by the throat and squeezed with sufficient force the child went red, blue and purple.

The eldest was assaulted with a hammer across the fingers, the child’s mouth was forced open and the child was hit with a steel spoon and a tennis or squash racket that was known as “the bat”.

Both the father and his girlfriend stood on the eldest child’s head or sat on their head and when they cried out in pain, the father’s girlfriend would stomp on the child’s head.

The girlfriend would also threaten to slit the children’s throats and on one occasion she pushed the eldest child out of a car resulting in the child hitting their chin on the concrete.

When the eldest was uplifted by police and taken to hospitasl for a check-up, the child was found to have bruising on the buttocks, scratches on the arm and tender fingers.

When the middle child was uplifted they had internal bruising on the left ear which was common when a child had been “boxed” across the ear, Judge Hollister-Jones said.

The middle child had bruising and swelling to the upper and lower lips and bruising and swelling on the buttocks.

The middle child was also assaulted with the hammer and bat. A cigarette burn was inflicted on the hand, they were threatened with a chainsaw and the father and his girlfriend sat on the child’s head.

The youngest child was found to have cuts on the lower lip, bruises across the thighs, bruises and scars across the face, trunk and legs. There were 20 bruises over different parts of the child’s body.

The case was described by Crown prosecutor Chris Macklin as “very serious” and “sad” and Judge Hollister-Jones agreed with that description when he revealed details of the man and woman’s past.

As a baby, the father was seriously assaulted and put in hospital by his father. He was then put in foster care – the first of many different care providers and schools he experienced.

By the time he was a teenager he was living on the streets and later started using methamphetamine. He described himself in his cultural report as a “ticking time bomb”.

The father’s girlfriend was also badly assaulted as a child.

Judge Hollister-Jones described the victim impact statements as “disturbing”.

The eldest child was too scared to sleep at night because they were too scared they would get a hiding. The child said they didn’t sleep because they were hungry and they had to steal food.

That child now had a number of behaviourial issues.

The middle child is described as being withdrawn, misses their siblings and “doesn’t understand why they can’t have the whanau of their choice”, Judge Hollister-Jones said.

The starting point for prison sentences was five and half years and Judge Hollister-Jones said it could have easily been higher.

They were given discounts for early guilty pleas, remorse and personal circumstances outlined in their cultural reports.

The father’s sentence was increased slightly because he had previous convictions for violence.

The father’s charges:
• Three charges of ill-treatment of a child
• Two charges threatening to kill
• Injuring with intent to injure
• Two charges of assault with intent to injure
• Three charges of assault with a weapon
End sentence: Three years and six months’ jail

The father’s partner’s charges:
• Three charges of ill-treatment of a child
• Two charges of threatening to kill
• Injuring with intent to injure
• Injuring with reckless disregard
• Three charges of assault with a weapon
• Assault with intent to injure
End sentence: Three years’ jail

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