Defendant ‘sticking up for partner’

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AN Invercargill woman is choosing to stand by her man ahead of justice for her son, who now has lifelong ACC coverage as a result of injuries inflicted upon him at 5 weeks old, a court has heard.

Crown solicitor Mary-Jane Thomas said in the Invercargill District Court last Thursday the woman continued to protect the baby’s father.

“It still strikes me as extraordinary that in a report, this defendant is effectively still sticking up for her partner, her meth-addicted partner, who could only, unless she was responsible for serious injuries to this child, could be the only person that nearly killed her child…”

The summary of facts says the baby was born prematurely and had been home for only a matter of weeks when it lost consciousness for the first time.

On September 11, 2018, the woman was woken by her partner with their baby cold and floppy in his arms. The man was saying he had tried to give the baby CPR.

The woman did not take the baby to hospital but repeatedly texted her partner the following day, saying the baby needed to go to hospital. She did dial 111 but hung up before being put through.

One of the texts she sent to her partner said: “I’m not being with u no more u have put s… before [baby’s name] he needs to go to the hospital but yet ur not here im sorry but [baby’s name] more important an u will […] pay for this [partner’s name].

While various medical professionals, including a general practitioner, Plunket nurse and midwife visited in the following days, the woman said nothing to them about the incident.

When the baby was 5 weeks old, ambulance staff uplifted it from the home.

The baby was rushed to hospital with a heart rate of zero. Its skin was cyanosed (a blueish discolouration), its temperature was 33.7degC and it had to be resuscitated by medical staff, the summary of facts says.

The baby was flown to Auckland’s Starship Hospital to be treated.

Starship Hospital service clinical director Patrick Kelly said the baby “came about as close to death as it is possible to come and still survive”.

A full medical examination revealed the baby had two broken ankles, broken bones at both knees, two broken wrists, multiple fractures of left ribs, possible fractures of the right toe and an unexplained abdominal injury.

Buckling of the ribs on the baby’s chest could be attributed to being given CPR, the summary says.

“The medical report concluded that the only possible diagnosis in this case is of non-accidental injury from repeated episodes of physical child abuse and that the cause of the stopping on the breathing was most likely from inflicted suffocation.”

Rib fractures were caused by violent squeezing of the chest and other fractures by force applied to the baby as it was twisted and pulled.

A police investigation revealed no evidence suggesting any person other than the woman or her partner could be responsible for the injuries.

At a court appearance in February, the woman admitted ill-treating and neglecting the infant.

Ms Thomas said the woman should get no discount for remorse.

Defence counsel Sonia Vidal said the woman now only had supervised visits with the child and was no longer allowed any children to be in her care.

A probation report, which stated the mother thought the baby was fine now, showed she was unaware of the reality for the child.

“I’ve said… she is not with the child all of the time. She’s not seeing his progress, if you like, or noting deficiencies and issues.”

Judge Kevin Phillips said the child now had lifetime ACC coverage due to the long-term effects of the injuries inflicted upon it.

“You do not seem to be aware of that at all. In the end you are considered to have a lack of insight into the physical, psychological and emotional harm your child has suffered.”

He was of the view a prison sentence would bring home to her the irretrievable damage she had done, but he was obliged to follow the law in relation to sentencing, Judge Phillips said.

The woman was sentenced to 11 months’ home detention but was warned if she did not meet the obligations of her sentence she would be resentenced to up to 22 months’ imprisonment.

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