Verdict in injured-toddler case

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 16:00 14/03/2014

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LATEST: The jury in the retrial of Peter Ross Moran has found him guilty of the lesser of the two charges he faced following an assualt on a toddler, which left the child with permanent brain damage.

For the past two weeks, Moran, 24, has been on trial in the High Court at Palmerston North, accused of injuring his former partner's son on the night of May 16, 2011.

The jury found Moran not guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm but guilty of an alternative charge of wounding with reckless disregard for the boy's safety.

It was a retrial, after a jury last year could not decide if he was guilty.

The jury retired yesterday afternoon to weigh up the evidence, but were sent home for the night as they needed more time to reach a verdict. They returned with their decision about 3pm today.

Yesterday the Crown and defence had summed up their cases.

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said the evidence showed Moran was the only person who could have inflicted the injuries.

The defence would try to point the finger at the boy's mother, Renee Robinson, but there was no way it could be her, he said.

While Ms Robinson was asleep during the time the boy was injured, Moran was awake.

Ms Robinson could not get to the boy's room without walking past Moran, Mr Vanderkolk said.

Moran was also stressed, sleep deprived, under pressure due to his studies and sick of the boy, while Ms Robinson had family support when she needed it, he said. That left only the possibility it was an accident, which Mr Vanderkolk said was unlikely.

The boy, who was able to climb chests of drawers and out windows, was "a survivor" and "a remarkably mobile and active boy".

Mr Vanderkolk said Moran, despite being awake when an accident might have happened, did not talk about hearing a thump when the boy would have fallen.

That only left the jury with the task of deciding Moran's state of mind at the time, he said. Either Moran had gone into the room with the intent of causing damage to the boy, or he had lashed out in a reckless way.

Defence lawyer Chris Wilkinson-Smith said what was known for certain was that Moran found the boy on the floor, injured.

"How he got that injury, we simply don't know."

The possibility of an accident could not be ruled out, he said.

The boy's behaviour had escalated from climbing on furniture to getting out windows on his own, as well as running out on to the road.

"Yes he is resilient, but he's not immune to having one too many accidents." The injuries could happen from a fall of any height.

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If the jury thought it was not an accident, they should then think about who was more likely to assault the boy - Ms Robinson or Moran, Mr Wilkinson-Smith said.

While Moran had no criminal convictions for violence and was trusted with other children, Ms Robinson had admitted smacking her child and had also slapped him once on the face.

Ms Robinson was also more stressed than Moran, he said.

She was pregnant, suffering extremely bad morning sickness, had just broken up with Moran, was $1300 behind on the rent and was, effectively, a solo parent to the boy.

Justice Jillian Mallon told the jury they should not worry about the result from the first trial.

They also did not have to dish out blame - they only had to decide if Moran was guilty or not guilty.

- Manawatu Standard

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