Punishment of 3yo girl was ‘bullying’

A man's punishment of a 3-year-old girl which involved push-ups, sit-ups, cold showers and eating frozen bread was "prolonged bullying", a judge says.

Stewart Douglass Smart, 32, appeared in the Invercargill District Court last week after pleading guilty to assaulting a child.

He was sentenced to home detention, which prompted the victim’s mother to unload a barrage of expletives regarding the psychological damage her girl had suffered.

The court heard that in 2022, Smart took on a parental role for his partner’s two young children.

He would direct most of his cruelty towards the youngest child while she was toilet training.

When the girl had accidents, the defendant forced her to take cold showers and yelled at her to stop crying.

He would also make both children do push-ups and sit-ups as punishment for misbehaving.

If they refused to eat their dinner, he would serve them frozen bread.

On March 26, the victim’s mother woke to her daughter screaming in the bathroom where she was with the defendant.

The next morning while she was dressing the girl, she noticed bruising on her lower back and buttock.

She and the victim walked to the police station to report the incident.

Smart followed them and pleaded with the mother not to report it.

He said he did not mean to hit the girl as hard as he had and threatened to kill himself if she informed police of the events.

Eventually they all went back to the mother’s house without making a complaint.

A week later, once the man had left the house, the mother made a police report.

Counsel Keith Owen said his client was a product of his environment as he had experienced harsh discipline as a child.

He had also suffered a head injury in a gang attack.

Judge Murray Hunt said the offending was serious and required a stern response.

"This is not discipline gone wrong.

"This is violence inflicted on a 3-year-old girl."

The offending would have had a "profound effect" on the child and would impact her ability to trust adults, the judge said.

"[This was] calculated and prolonged bullying ... against a young, defenceless child."

Judge Hunt sentenced Smart to five months’ home detention. He noted there was already a protection order made in favour of the mother and child.