Assault on infant earns jail term

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 11:00 31/08/2012

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A man who severely assaulted his infant grandson and failed to seek medical help for him has been jailed for seven years and admonished by a judge for his "cowardly" actions.

The boy had seven fractures and has since lost the sight of his left eye.

At a jury trial in Palmerston North, Lex Arnold Sinclair, 47, of Whanganui, was found guilty of one charge each of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and wilfully neglecting a child.

In the attack, which took place in the lounge of an Opunake house on the night of May 1, 2010, Sinclair's 11-month-old grandson's skull was fractured and his thigh bone broken, as were both his legs near the ankles.

From Opunake, Sinclair took the boy home to his mother in Palmerston North on May 4, 2010, and the boy saw a doctor the next day.

He was then taken to Palmerston North Hospital before being flown to Auckland's Starship children's hospital, with his life in danger.

When he arrived in Palmerston North, Sinclair lied to the boy's mother about seeing a doctor in Whanganui, who, Sinclair claimed, said the boy had a stomach bug.

In the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Judge Gerard Lynch said Sinclair's refusal to seek medical attention for the boy was "reprehensible".

"It was cowardly. You injured [the boy], you needed to fix it by getting treatment and you needed to take responsibility. You allowed yourself to step over the barrier of what is right and unleash violence on this defenceless child."

When calculating his sentence, the judge said there were no mitigating factors in Sinclair's favour, as he still denied his offending. He did, however, admit he should have taken the boy to a doctor.

Judge Lynch accepted that until the assault Sinclair was a loving grandfather who played a big part in taking care of the boy.

In a statement to the court, the boy's mother, Amanda McCormack, said it "breaks my heart" to see her son struggling with blurred vision and frustrated by wearing eye patches and glasses.

During his trial, Sinclair had tried to pin the blame for the assault on his son Khole Buckthought, the boy's father. Sinclair claimed the boy's injuries might have happened after his return home.

Judge Lynch said this explanation was rejected by the jury.

Defence lawyer Steve Winter said "whatever happened" was out of character compared with Sinclair's normal interactions with his grandson.

"It was a loss of control, rather than a premeditated pattern of cruelty and violence towards a child."

Outside court, a relative of the boy said she was satisfied with the outcome.

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"Any sentence isn't going to give back [the boy's] sight," she said.

Detective Glenda Barnaby said investigations into cases like Sinclair's were "notoriously tricky".

"We're just fortunate the truth was told. It's really hard when you don't have a victim that can speak for himself, and it's really tragic because his life won't be the same."

- Manawatu Standard

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