5 Nov 2015

Women who burnt child's hands assaulted brother

7:38 pm on 5 November 2015

A woman jailed last month for deliberately burning her child's hands has had two years added to her prison term after being found guilty of a vicious assault on her brother.

The woman, whose name is suppressed to protect the identity of her victims, was sentenced today in the Wellington District Court on one charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The attack on her brother occurred in July 2013, while she was awaiting trial for burning her child.

In that case, a jury found the woman had deliberately plunged her toddler's hands into boiling water and left the resulting burns untreated for at least three months.

The little boy's fingers fused together, removing his ability to use his hands, and he later had a five-hour operation and skin grafts to restore the use of his fingers.

Judge Chris Tuohy said there were several aggravating features to the offending for which the woman was sentenced today.

The woman and her brother had been drinking at her home, and she picked up an empty glass bottle and repeatedly hit him around the head and face with it.

The brother suffered a head injury and was left with a permanent scar, and the judge said evidence of blood spatter at the scene showed it was a sustained attack.

The Crown sought a sentencing starting point of five-and-a-half years - saying, while the woman called emergency services, she was obstructive when they arrived, trying to prevent police entering her home.

Val Nisbet, a lawyer who had assisted the woman during her trial, said he was extremely concerned about her mental state.

There had also been cultural issues since she came to New Zealand from an island in the Pacific, he said.

Judge Arthur Tompkins said a significant number of psychiatric and other reports had been prepared for the woman, but it was difficult to obtain an accurate assessment of her intellectual and mental functioning, as she had refused to cooperate with the report writers.

It was clear the woman had problems with intellectual functioning, she had issues with anger and trust, along with a long-standing alcohol abuse problem, he said.

Cultural issues had also been reflected in the woman's difficulties assimilating to conditions in New Zealand.

Information about the woman's offending over the last ten years showed she posed a significant risk to community safety and particularly to members of her own family, and that was exacerbated by her significant alcohol abuse, he said.

Judge Tompkins said if all the charges had been dealt with together, the woman would have been jailed for seven years, and adding two years to the previous sentence achieved that.