19 Jun 2019

Woman jailed for abuse of mother

9:40 am on 19 June 2019

By Rob Kidd for the Otago Daily Times

In a three-day span a Dunedin woman allowed her 71-year-old mother six hours' sleep, constantly waking her in the night with a barrage of abuse.

Anita Dorothy Cumming (39) would scream at her mother and force her out of bed to clean the house in the early hours, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday.

And it had to be to the defendant's ''exacting specifications'', due to her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Cumming previously pleaded guilty to three breaches of a protection order - a measure that had been put in place to shield her mother from such attacks.

Defence counsel Marie Taylor-Cyphers said her client had been resigned to a period of imprisonment but that had changed by yesterday.

Cumming howled throughout the sentencing hearing.

She repeatedly screamed at her mother, who was sitting in the public gallery, and clasped her hands together in a gesture of prayer at one stage.

Judge Michael Turner repeatedly asked her to restrain herself.

''Please don't do this, sir,'' Cumming wailed.

''Will someone help me?''

The constant interruptions resulted in the judge delaying sentencing for a couple of hours.

Cumming had to be carried out of the dock by Corrections guards and she could be heard yelling while other cases proceeded.

Later, she stood in an adjacent courtroom and was beamed in by audiovisual link (on mute) so the sentencing could take place unheeded.

Judge Turner said the February incidents in which Cumming terrorised her mother, and two occasions of unlawful contact in April, were at a time when she was serving another sentence which barred her from contacting the victim.

That had been imposed after an episode in August, when the defendant became enraged about blueberries her mother had bought.

When the victim refused to return to the shop to get more, Cumming hit her on the leg with a glass bottle then grabbed at her when she called police.

A psychologist's report said she had developed an ''insecure attachment pattern'' and had come to rely on her mother to alleviate her anxieties inherent with OCD.

''Those who adhere to her cleaning routines and then refuse to follow instructions are at threat of violence,'' it said.

Judge Turner said even if there was a home-detention address available for Cumming, only imprisonment was appropriate.

''You have little if any insight into the offending and effects of it on others. To permit you to return home will only lead to further offending and harm to your mother,'' he said.

While on bail in Tauranga, Cumming had breached her conditions by calling the victim and even when at Wakari Hospital, she had left the grounds and got a taxi to her mother's home.

She was jailed for a year.


A photo was removed from this story due to a Media Council complaint which was upheld with a minority dissenting opinion.