30 May 2019

Porse child carer jailed for three years for shaking baby

8:07 pm on 30 May 2019


A Porse caregiver who shook a baby twice, causing permanent brain damage, has been sentenced to three years in jail.

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Margaret Elstone, 63, appeared in the Napier District Court this morning after being convicted last month of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless intent.

She had shaken the 6-month-old boy on two separate occasions at her home in January 2017, two weeks apart.

The child's mother told as she read out a victim impact statement that her baby had endured "excrutiating pain" as a result of the abuse.

"He endured two lumbar punctures ... until we knew the truth. During the first, I watched him scream."

She described how she and her husband themselves were under suspicion and were watched as they sat with their baby in Starship Hospital, until it was discovered that Elstone was the abuser.

"It broke us. It was a betrayal beyond which we could fathom," the mother told the court as she wept and described how they struggled to know trust anyone.

"As a family we can now no longer leave our children with anyone."

She and her husband were shocked to learn for the first time during the trial in April that Elstone had not been coping with her baby, she said.

"Porse knew about it. Her supervisor had been told repeatedly and others from the organisation knew. Why was it discussed without our involvement?"

"For our children's sake, we would have removed them immediately if we had known she wasn't coping," she said.

Her baby was described by Porse as "grumpy, grizzly and fussy", she said.

"In this case my baby had good reason to be anxious and scared."

Judge Geoff Rea said Elstone, who also wept throughout the sentencing, was considered by the family to be a "quasi grandmother" but she had showed no responsibility for her actions, and had even tried to paint herself as the victim.

"The evidence in this case is totally overwhelming. The injuries the complainant suffered were the result of abusive head trauma ... you were the only possible person who could have caused them on those two occasions," Judge Rea said.

It was concerning that Elston had failed to speak up on both occasions about the true cause of the baby's injuries, making the child undergo unneccessary and painful treatments as doctors tried to work out what was wrong with him, he said.

"You have steadfastly refused to take responsibility. You painted yourself as the victim. That is not the case."

A paediatrician's report read out by Judge Rea said the child continued to feel the effects of the abuse. He had a permanant weakness in one arm, trouble with his motor skills and was often unsteady on his feet, but the full effects of the abuse would not be known until he was about eight years old.

Elstone was given a discount of one year for having post-traumatic stress disorder and for offering to make reparation to the parents for emotional harm, even though the parents refused it.

'A tragedy for all involved'

Porse declined to comment on the mother's statement and also refused to answer questions on whether it had made changes to its policies, recruitment and support of carers since the case came to light.

A spokeperson instead referred RNZ to comments it issued when Elstone was convicted in April.

"Porse acknowledges the gravity of the incidents and our heart goes out to the family affected.

"To have an incident of this nature happen in our community is a tragedy for all involved," the statement said.