Appeal over ill treatment dismissed

Last updated 19:30 17/06/2014

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A man convicted of placing a plastic bag over the head of his children so they struggled to breathe has had his appeal against conviction dismissed.

In April 2013 a jury found Mr R, whose name is suppressed, guilty of two charges of assault with a weapon, three charges of assaulting a child and one charge of wilfully ill-treating a child. 

The charges related to offending against Mr R’s four sons, who were aged between six and 10 years of age at the time of the incidents.

The charges of willfully ill-treating a child involved Mr R placing a plastic bag over the heads of three of his children so that they found it difficult to breathe.

The assault charges occurred when Mr R grabbed the wrists of three of his children, and then slammed the child’s hand down on the surface of a table. 

The other charge related to an incident in which Mr R slapped the remaining child on the side of the head, causing the child’s head to hit the surface of a table.

The three charges of assault with a weapon were laid as a result of incidents in which Mr R struck three of his children with either a wooden stick or a metal ruler.

The Judge subsequently sentenced Mr R to home detention and community work.

Mr R appealed the convictions on the grounds that the verdicts are unsafe because of how they were delivered by the jury, and he contended that his trial counsel failed to represent him adequately.

On a number of occasions during the delivery of the jury’s verdict the foreman became confused, delivering the wrong verdict, or being unclear whether the verdict was unanimous or by a majority.

On two counts of verdict confusion Mr R’s counsel said the convictions should be regarded as unsafe and the convictions set aside.

The Court of Appeal disagreed.

Counsel for Mr R contended that trial counsel had failed to adequately represent Mr R by not calling the defendant as a witness and not asking appropriate questions of other witnesses.

The trial counsel did not want to call Mr R because he is an unusual person who has considerable difficulty distinguishing fact from fantasy. He also has an inability to answer questions directly.

The Court again disagreed, ruling the Mr R had received professional and thorough service from his lawyer who was correct in not calling him as a witness.

“We consider Mr R fortunate to have had the services of counsel who was able to act with commendable professionalism and to mount such an effective line of defence. That is particularly so given Mr R had little or no ability to provide his counsel with rational assistance in relation to the strategy to be employed at trial,” Justice Lang said.

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