Mum is girl's worst nightmare

An Auckland mother found guilty of horrific child abuse went to jail saying she is "not really a bad mother".

The woman, 31, who has name suppression, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison with a non-parole period of five years when she appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday.

The 10-year-old girl is so terrified she has nightmares her mother will get out of jail, find her and continue the beatings.

Emotional pleas by the girl and her eight-year-old brother were read to Auckland District Court yesterday as their west Auckland mother was jailed for sustained and horrific abuse against them.

"I still have nightmares about what happened to me. In my dreams my mother and father are out of jail and trying to find me to hurt me some more," the girl said in a victim impact statement.

Her brother, through a statement he insisted was read to court, told judge Brooke Gibson he wanted his parents to stay in jail for a long time.

"I was hurt for a long time so I think they should stay where they are for a long time too.

"There is nothing nice about my mum. I can't think of any good things. I can think of lots of bad things. I don't know why I was hit so much but I think it was because I wasn't good enough."

The case came to light last year when the girl, aged nine at the time, was found hiding in a cupboard in her home.

She was starving, dehydrated, bruised and suffering from broken bones and anaemia from internal bleeding and her scalp had been half torn off.

The case appalled the nation and has been dubbed one of the worst abuse cases in which a child had lived.

The mother pleaded guilty to 25 charges, including tearing off the girl's toe nail and pouring boiling water and salt over the bleeding toe.

She wrote abusive comments on the girl's body, kicked her in the vaginal area, and assaulted her with weapons, including a machete, broom handle and table leg.

The mother also abused her son, who was seven at the time.

The mother has spoken out, saying she is not a bad parent and was simply trying to protect her other three children.

"I'm a bad mum for what I done to the child but I'm not really a bad mother at all."

She told counsellors she was reaching breaking point over her daughter's deteriorating behaviour, she said.

She hit her daughter on the bottom with a broomstick multiple times because she "couldn't handle it anymore", she told Radio Live.

"They said that I tortured her, I didn't torture her. Yes I did assault her, I slapped her around, I punched her."

Defence lawyer Lorraine Smith said the mother's actions were those of a woman let down by the system and multiple agencies, a statement that angered cabinet minister Paula Bennett.

"My submission is that both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Development failed both [the child] and her mother."

The mother wrote to Prime Minister John Key asking for help. He passed the letter on to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who replied offering six additional counselling sessions for the girl.

"In hindsight I wish I was writing back and saying the police are knocking on your door we're removing your children from you right now," Ms Bennett said.

But blame for the horrific abuse lay squarely with the parents, she said.

"That child was so deeply failed by those very parents that were supposed to protect her, so it's fine to sit back now and try and blame someone else or the Government while in the meantime you are dehydrating, starving and beating your child.

"I'm afraid, no I don't stand and take responsibility for that, she should stand up and take it herself."

The girl has been in Child Youth and Family (CYF) care since she was four months old. She was returned to her mother after being allegedly sexually abused by a family member whose care she was in.

More than 25 agencies had dealt with the family, including 13 in the six months leading up to the mother's arrest.

A ministerial inquiry into the case was released yesterday and made 13 recommendations, including new CYF liaison workers for schools, mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect, urgent research on 'family-first' care and a new child protection court

ADULTS TOO BUSY TALKING - BENNETT

An abuse case not picked up by any of the 25 agencies involved with an Auckland family shows adults were too busy talking to each other and not looking after the children, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.

A ministerial inquiry into the case was made public yesterday after the mother involved was sentenced to 7 1/2 years' jail.

The inquiry found the mother was manipulative, and convinced those involved that she had her daughter's interests at heart. The inquiry made 13 recommendations, including:

 - Re-enforcing Child, Youth and Family's child-centred practice.

 - Better information sharing.

 - New CYF liaison workers for schools.

 - Mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect.

 - Urgent research on kinship care.

 - A new child protection court.

Ms Bennett said: "We can kind of see that, throughout this, adults were so concentrating on talking to each other, were they looking down and really recognising the child at the centre of all this?"

The placement of children in care with extended family is under the microscope as a result of the case. Ms Bennett was "very concerned" about the situation. Family carers had fewer checks, she said, and were not as closely monitored as independent carers.

The girl was with an independent carer from March 2002 until December 2005, probably the happiest years of her life, the minister said.

The Dominion Post