The actions of a woman who bit the top off her sister's
little finger during a drunken fight were ''excessive and
quite cruel'' because the sister would be disfigured for the
rest of her life, a Dunedin judge said yesterday.
Kerry Ann Byrne (32), farm worker, of Dunedin, was sentenced
to seven months' home detention and ordered to pay $1500
reparation for intentionally injuring her sister during the
incident just after 1am on November 10 last year.
Byrne earlier admitted the indictably-laid charge which was
amended from one of disfiguring with intent to cause grievous
At sentencing in the Dunedin District Court, Judge Michael
Crosbie said it was clear the defendant and her sister were
both intoxicated and were arguing, that the argument
escalated and the sister lunged at Byrne, pinning her to the
While trying to free herself, Byrne turned her head and bit
her sister's knee. The sister put her hand on Byrne's face,
pushing her head away to stop the biting and her little
finger went into the defendant's mouth.
Byrne bit down with so much force, she severed the top half
of the finger, then spat it on the floor, the judge said.
Surgery to reattach the top of the finger was unsuccessful
and the victim was now disfigured.
Crown counsel Richard Smith said the Crown was not opposed to
a community-based sentence. But a two-year prison term,
reduced by six months to allow for the guilty plea, was the
appropriate starting point for penalty. It was accepted that
could be converted to home detention, Mr Smith said.
Byrne had been candid with the pre-sentence report writer
''to her detriment'' and had acknowledged her alcohol and
The defendant told Judge Crosbie she last used cannabis about
a month ago and was warned that, on a community-based
sentence, she could expect to be tested for drugs. If she
tested positive, she would be brought back to court for
re-sentence and would go to jail.
Public defender Campbell Savage said it appeared Byrne was
''a violent drunk''. But the fact she had been off alcohol
since the incident last November should give the court some
hope such a thing would not happen again.
She had paid work and her employer was willing to support her
through her sentence. She would be able to pay the $1500
reparation at $150 a fortnight.
At the age of 32, the defendant had some prior convictions,
but not for violence, the judge said. She had clearly been
''quite drunk'' at the time of the offending, but had been
candid with the probation officer, offering no excuse for her
behaviour and accepting responsibility for the injury to her
There had apparently been some relationship difficulties
between the two women and the key seemed to be the
defendant's use of alcohol and drugs.
Although restorative justice had not happened, through some
breakdown in communications with the police, he hoped it
might be possible during the sentence, the judge said.
In addition to home detention, probation recommended alcohol
and drug counselling and a domestic violence programme for
the defendant. Her sister wanted her to get the help she
needed and believed the only way she would get that help
would be if she was forced to do programmes for drugs,
alcohol and anger, Judge Crosbie told Byrne.
''But, as you know, you can lead a horse to water, but you
can't make him drink,'' the judge said. Byrne could ''do as
many courses as you like'' but she had to want to make them
work. She knew she had to be a role model for her children.
As part of her detention, Byrne is to be subject to zero
tolerance for drug or alcohol use. If she tested positive she
was likely to be brought back to court and would serve the
rest of her sentence in prison. Judge Crosbie ordered
permanent suppression of the victim's name.