Nun charged with assaulting girl (9)

A Sunday School class ended in tears when a nun broke the arm of a 9-year-old girl, a court has been told.

Leva-i-Fangalupe Fono, known as Sister Leva, has gone on trial in Auckland District Court on charges of assaulting a child and injuring with intent to injure.

Crown prosecutor Michael Walker told the court yesterday that Sister Leva was helping with a Sunday School class at St Patrick's church in Panmure last April when the incident happened.

He said a group of children were practising an action song to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a church leader when Sister Leva began yelling at a 9-year-old girl and telling her she was doing the actions wrong.

"She then went up to her and flicked her in the side of the head, causing her to feel dizzy. She then twisted her arm up behind her back and the girl heard a click in her shoulder and neck," Mr Walker told the court.

The girl burst into tears and had to be taken out of class.

The next day the girl's mother noticed her daughter's arm was bruised and took her to hospital, where the fracture was discovered.

In a recorded police interview, the 9-year-old told Constable Lucy Kennedy that she had been doing the actions right.

She said Sister Leva was "angry as" and had red cheeks when she approached her.

After Sister Leva twisted her wrist behind her back her arm went "dazey and all sleepy".

"She [asked] why am I crying and that I'm crying in an old lady's way." All the other helpers in the room started laughing, the girl said.

Giving evidence by closed circuit TV from another court room, the 9-year-old said she cried until her mother came to pick her up.

She said her arm still hurt sometimes - more than a year later.

Under cross-examination from Sister Leva's lawyer Andrew Comeskey, the girl confirmed she did not see Sister Leva flick her in the head but later said Sister Leva was in front of her when it happened.

Mr Comeskey suggested to the girl she had got the actions wrong and Sister Leva was only trying to correct her.

The girl answered: "I'm not sure".

In his opening address, Mr Walker reminded the jury to ignore feelings of prejudice and sympathy.

"The issue is heightened in this trial because the fact is that the accused is a nun. That may provoke sympathetic emotions for you. I'd be surprised if it didn't."

He said Sister Leva's occupation was "completely irrelevant".

Wearing a cross on her lapel, Sister Leva used her cardigan to shield her face from photographers as she left court with supporters.

The trial - before Judge Heemi Taumaunu - is being heard by a jury of eight women and four men and is set down for four days.

The 9-year-old's sister, who witnessed the incident, is expected to give evidence today.

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