Chch man jailed for abuse of severely emaciated child

The little boy was covered in bruises, lacerations and burns. Photo: Getty Images / File
The little boy was covered in bruises, lacerations and burns. Photo: Getty Images / File
A Christchurch man who admitted he helped to abuse a pre-schooler to the point he was severely emaciated and unable to walk or speak has been jailed.

The 43-year-old’s offending was described as "deliberate and gratuitous" and the court heard he "blamed" the boy for the offending and had shown no remorse.

In November the Herald revealed details of the case when the man - who cannot be named to protect the identity of the young victim - pleaded guilty to five charges of assault.

Two women are also facing charges for their alleged abuse and ill-treatment of the boy.

They have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to stand trial later this year.

But the man admitted his role in the boy’s injuries - which occurred while he lived with him and the women a tiny overcrowded flat.

The abuse came to light in October 2021 at an Oranga Tamariki whānau hui, scheduled to assess the little boy’s welfare.

The man and one of the women arrived late to the hui and a social worker spoke with them at their vehicle.

It was there the worker noticed the boy had clear injuries and appeared to be significantly unwell.

An ambulance was called and the boy was rushed to Christchurch Hospital.

Alongside being emaciated and unable to walk or move; medical staff said he was severely malnourished and underweight with thinning hair and wasted muscles.

He was also traumatised to the point that he was psychologically shut off and unable to express any emotion or utter a single word.

Later it was found the child had compression fractures to seven of his vertebrae, several ribs and his sternum, as well as burn marks from a cigarette lighter and bleeding over the surface of his brain.

Police say that between September 18 and October 7, 2021 the boy only had contact with the adults in the house.

Court documents state the boy was made to sleep on a vinyl floor in the entranceway of the house with a folded-up duvet, a couple of blankets and a pillow.

After a couple of weeks the adults became concerned that members of the public might see him there so he was moved to the bathtub with urine-soiled blankets that were allegedly never washed.

The court heard the boy had no routine in his life and did not attend daycare.

He stayed up watching television into the early hours of the morning .

He was given little food.

The man admitted assaulting the boy on multiple occasions, including forcefully dragging him by his limbs and smacking him with force on his buttocks, causing bruising.

He also admitted that he had held a lighter to the boy’s foot, leaving a 2cm burn mark.

Police also alleged the boy was smacked with force with a jandal in his genital area by one of the women in the house, leaving him with bruising and fractures to both of his front hip bones.

The boy was also allegedly pinned to the ground multiple times by the same woman who then used her knee and pushed all her weight against him, causing significant bruising and fractures.

Both women deny the offending.

The man appeared in Christchurch District Court.
The abuser was sentenced today in the High Court at Christchurch. Photo: File image
The 43-year old was sentenced by Justice Rachel Dunningham today.

She said he had a lengthy criminal history including family violence - but no previous convictions relating to child abuse.

"This was deliberate and gratiutious assault on a very vulnerable child," she said.

"He was a very vulnerable child who was in your care because you were an adult in the house.

A presentence report stated the man had little to no remorse.

Justice Dunningham said the man "blamed" the little boy’s behaviour for the abuse and did not acknowledge his own actions.

A cultural report outlined the man’s "chaotic and disorganised upbringing where violence and abuse were normalised".

"The report was based largely on self reporting," said the judge.

"And it certainly explains your life path."

He suffered "significant physical abuse" from his father and claimed he was sexually abused by other adults who frequented the family home.

"You say that you took to harming yourself, particularly with knives, and locking yourself in the bedroom to stop this happening," Justice Dunningham said.

"You then say, at around six years of age, you were placed in a psychiatric care for ADHD. You again report repeated physical and sexual at 7 years old."

His grandparents took him in when he was 9 but at 12 he ran away from home to look for his father.

He ended up in Auckland where he lived on the streets and his life of criminal offending began.

Over the following years he told the court he joined the Highway 61 gang and then began using methamphetamine and heroin.

He later joined the Hells Angels gang.

Justice Dunningham said the man continued to blame the women for most of the offending and took little responsibility for his own part.

He had "little motivation" to address his issues.

She said prison was the appropriate consequence for the man.

He was sentenced to two months’ jail for each of the assaults on the boy and 14 months for another assault.

The terms are to be served concurrently.

Given he has spent around seven months in prison already as his case progressed through the courts it is likely he will be released soon.

Court documents confirmed Oranga Tamariki had sporadic involvement in monitoring the care and protection of the boy and his 2-year-old brother throughout their lives.

"Any form of abuse against a child is utterly unacceptable," said OT deputy chief executive of service delivery Rachel Leota.

"While we cannot comment on this case as it is before the courts, we can confirm this child is now safe and cared for."

-By Anna Leask