Woman jailed over mum's neglect

Last updated 13:47 16/05/2014
Jo-Ann Quinn
Fairfax NZ
JAILED: Jo-Ann Quinn expressed no emotion as she was sentenced.

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The woman convicted of neglecting her sick mother in what a judge has called one of the worst cases of elder neglect in our history has been sentenced to two years and six months in jail.

Jo-Ann Quinn, 51, was sentenced in Napier District Court this afternoon on a charge of  failing to provide the necessaries of life to her 82-year-old mother Maureen.

Quinn was found guilty of the charge at a judge-only trial last month.

She expressed no emotion as she sat in the dock at Napier District Court.

Crown prosecutor Steve Manning told Judge Jonathan Down that Quinn's offending was so serious it required a term of imprisonment.

He suggested a term of three to three-and-a-half years.

It was a case without precedent and a strong message of deterrence was needed, Manning said.

Manning quoted from a psychiatric report that found she was not mentally impaired, and rejected any mitigation concerning Quinn's mental health issues.

Quinn's lawyer Matt Dixon felt a sentence of home detention was appropriate.

Dixon quoted from an earlier psychiatric report that said Quinn had a personality disorder that meant she was unlikely to know when someone needed assistance.

He said although not a mental illness, this disorder should be considered a mitigating factor.

He also said Maureen had refused medical treatment and was entitled to do so.

Judge Down said Quinn had a legal duty to care for her mother and there had been an "extreme level of neglect over about two weeks".

The judge said the lack of similar cases of elder neglect meant he had to refer to cases of child neglect in order to reach an appropriate sentence.

The judge did not believe Quinn would reoffend but the need for deterrence was so great it warranted a stern sentence.

"Although Maureen Quinn did not blame her that does not mean I am bound by the same conclusion," Judge Down said.

"It was an example of a dreadful lack of care and neglect," he said.

He sentenced Quinn to two years and six months imprisonment.

During the trial the court heard that when medical staff were called to the Quinn house on November 15, 2011, they found Quinn's 82-year-old mother in a dirty, smelly state with maggot-infested leg ulcers.

She was wearing nappies, and appeared not to have showered for some time.

She was severely dehydrated and malnourished.

She was taken to hospital immediately but succumbed to pneumonia six weeks later.

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Medical staff said it was the worst case of neglect they had seen.

Fibres of the blanket covering her had become embedded in her leg wounds. Paramedics found her covered in blue dye from the couch and dried faeces.

Her face was stained blue from the couch and her left toenails were so long that they had become embedded in her right leg.

Quinn moved back to the family home to care for her mother after her father, Noel, died in 2006. A year later her mother signed a single-page will, leaving all her belongings to Jo-Ann.

Other family members said Maureen was left to "fester" on the couch.

Jo-Ann, one of eight children, claimed she did her best to care for her mother, who was fiercely independent.

She said her mother wanted to be in her home, among her ornaments and looking out over the garden she loved. She had lived in the state house for 60 years and raised eight children there.

- The Dominion Post

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