Granddaughter 'scared to go home'

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2012

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Concerns have been raised that two abusive Hawera grandparents will do their time in a home where there are three young children.

Kristin Marie Kihi-Leatherby, 44, and Poani Barney Tuisi, 60, were yesterday sentenced to five months' home detention after admitting repeated assaults on their granddaughter when she was aged between 11 and 12.

While there were concerns that there were young children in the house they will serve their time in, it appeared Child, Youth and Family was aware they lived there.

The couple was also ordered to attend domestic violence counselling and a parenting course.

A CYF spokesman said last night the service would comment on the case today.

Ironically, the assaulted girl was put in the custody of her grandparents for her own safety, Crown prosecutor Andrew Britton told New Plymouth District Court yesterday.

From January 2010 to May 2011 she was the victim of numerous assaults with wood, a vacuum cleaner pipe and a leather belt.

In asking for a nine-month jail sentence, Mr Britton said it was inappropriate that Kihi-Leatherby and Tuisi be given home detention because there were three other young children now living at their home.

The couple had a lack of remorse and insight into their offending, Mr Britton said.

Since the assaults were discovered, the granddaughter had been moved to live with another family and was now happy.

For Kihi-Leatherby, Rajan Rei said the children in the house lived with their mother and CYF was aware of the situation.

If there were concerns, a protection order could be put in place but none had been sought.

The granddaughter and her two brothers were removed from their natural parents because of neglect. The children did not respect their grandparents and there were behavioural difficulties, Mr Rei said.

Kihi-Leatherby accepted she overstepped the mark and was sorry.

Kelly Marriner, for Tuisi, said the granddaughter suffered no injuries apart from bruising from the pipe.

The couple had asked for help from CYF, which was not forthcoming. They now had the help of kaumatua, one of whom was in court to support them.

Judge Allan Roberts said the granddaughter did not want to see her grandparents again.

"From the time she can remember, she always felt scared going home," the judge said.

The child, who was regularly abused, was entitled to protection and to look to them both for care and love.

The violence was routine and premeditation was at a high level.

The couple pleaded guilty on the morning of their trial, sparing the child the ordeal of giving evidence, the judge said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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