10 Sep 2015

Mother burned son, failed to get help

5:33 pm on 10 September 2015

A woman has been found guilty of burning her son and failing to take him to the doctor, despite his wounds being so severe his fingers fused together.

The mother, whose name is suppressed for legal reasons, was accused of wounding the child with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm, wilfully neglecting him and failing to seek medical attention.

A majority of jurors found her guilty of deliberately burning the two-year-old's hands,

following a trial in the Wellington District Court this week.

After deliberating for five hours, the jury indicated they could not reach a unanimous decision on the first count, relating to wounding the child but Judge Chris Tuohy told them he would accept a majority 11 to 1 verdict.

As well as the majority verdict on the wounding charge, the jury also found the woman guilty on the charges of neglecting the child and failing to seek medical attention for him.

Judge Chris Tuohy summed up the case this morning, telling jurors the first question for them to consider was whether the little boy's burns were caused deliberately or accidentally, and if was the former, who caused them.

He said the defence case was that it could not be excluded that the child burnt himself when reaching into a bowl of boiling hot water to pick up his milk bottle.

Regarding the other charges, Judge Tuohy said for the mother's conduct to be wilful neglect, she had to have consciously appreciated the pain and suffering that the boy would suffer if medical help was not sought.

He said the Crown does not have to prove the mother intended to cause unnecessary suffering, but rather that she appreciated the need for medical care and failed to provide it.

Judge Tuohy also gave the jurors a strong warning on prejudice and sympathy, telling them it was very hard not to feel emotion in cases involving the alleged abuse of children, but they must put aside all feelings of sympathy towards the child.

He remanded the woman in custody for sentencing on 28 October.