21 Dec 2011

Judge says mother subjected girl to torture

10:12 pm on 21 December 2011

An Auckland judge says a woman jailed for abusing her nine-year-old daughter regularly subjected her to torture.

The woman, who has name suppression to protect the identity of the child, admitted to a raft of child abuse charges earlier this year.

The Auckland District Court was told the woman subjected her daughter and seven-year-old son to physical and mental abuse.

She was jailed for seven-and-a half-years, with a minimum non-parole period of five years, when she appeared for sentencing on Wednesday.

Judge Brooke Gibson said the girl was physically and mentally abused, and humiliated in a totally unacceptable way.

In one incident, the court was told the mother pulled off one of the girl's toenails and poured salt and hot water into the wound. She also used weapons including a machete, a broom stick and steel pipe, and kicked her daughter while wearing steel-capped boots.

The judge said some of the woman's actions amounted to nothing less than torture.

"The position simply is that the defendant, as I have said, knows the difference between right and wrong. She chose to do what she did and she now must take the consequences of that.

"She may have had a difficult upbringing, but many people do and it's not a license to torture or physically abuse her own children."

Judge Gibson highlighted the Crown's assertion that the harm intended by the woman was the most serious a person can intend, short of death.

Earlier, defence lawyer Lorraine Smith told the court the Government failed the mother and her victim.

Ms Smith said the woman could not be seen as a person whose conduct was simply gratuitous violence. She told the court the victim was a gravely disturbed little girl and government agencies failed to follow through and act together to help her.

The girl's father has also admitted to charges of child abuse. His case was adjourned on Wednesday and he will be sentenced in February next year.

Mother couldn't cope, says lawyer

Outside court on Wednesday, the lawyer for the woman says her client could not cope.

Lorraine Smith told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the girl should not have been put back in her mother's care.

"She was a deeply disturbed and fractured child who was returned from caregivers in that state and put into the care of her mother with whom she had not bonded, nor the mother with her.

"The mother also had very serious issues of her own - she was not able to cope and the child should not have been placed back in the mother's care."

Ms Smith says the girl had previously been sexually abused while in the care of Child, Youth and Family.