Court overturns home detention sentence

A man who was sentenced to home detention after breaking his baby daughter's legs will now have to serve more than two years in jail, after a court quashed the sentence.

James Robert Hall, 21, was sentenced to 12 months' home detention after pleading guilty to two charges of causing grievous bodily harm, after his daughter was admitted to Hawke's Bay Hospital in March last year.

Last month the Solicitor-General appealed that sentence at the Court of Appeal, saying it was manifestly inadequate.

Annabel Marham, lawyer for the Solicitor-General, told the court that the sentencing judge failed to put earlier abuse cases that were drawn on in sentencing in the context of a developing jurisprudence.

There was a "hardening or sterner" approach to cases of this matter, which was not taken into account, she said.

It was not a single case of anger; instead the infant was subjected to prolonged suffering, and medical help was not sought.

In the first four months of her life, the little girl suffered a possible fracture to her arm, three fractures on her right thigh, two fractures on her left leg and bruising on her leg and pelvic areas.

Hall admitted to police he had injured his daughter, and on one occasion had bent her leg back in "blind anger". He said other injuries could have been caused through him being rough or careless with her.

He attributed his behaviour to "unresolved anger and his difficulty in bonding with his daughter", the Court of Appeal ruling, which was released today, said.

The ruling said the little girl "must have spent the first few weeks of her life in significant pain".

Defence counsel Scott Jefferson argued at the Court of Appeal there was not a huge difference between what the Solicitor-General was asking for and the sentence.

"What we're arguing about is whether this man should go to prison or not.

"Given that we're not far apart, I urge the court not to interfere with it."

But Justices Douglas White, Graham Lang and Christopher Allan said it was apparent the sentencing judge, Justice Mary Peters, had "erred" in adopting a starting point of two years nine months imprisonment.

"We accept the Crown submissions that the offending here was serious and involved an acceptance by Mr Hall of 'reckless disregard' for his baby daughter."

The justices said the home detention sentence was "manifestly inadequate".

They quashed the sentenced and replaced it with imprisonment of two years five months.

Hall had completed 10 days of his home detention sentence, but the justices did not consider he should receive any reduction in the sentence they imposed.

He was to surrender himself to Hastings police by 10am Monday.


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