Case of boy's horrific facial burns shocks

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2013

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A Christchurch 5-year-old has been hospitalised with severe facial burns in a child abuse case that has shocked police and social agencies.

A man in his 40s is accused of holding a fan heater to the side of the boy's face, causing third degree burns from his eyebrows to his chin.

Police have charged the man with wounding with intent to cause the boy grievous bodily harm over the weekend incident at a house in the city's northeast.

He appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Monday and was remanded in custody without entering a plea.

The man, who has name suppression, will next appear on August 6.

Detective Sergeant Darren Folau, of the police child protection unit, said the injury was "horrific".

The boy would require major surgery, including skin grafts for the disfiguring burn, he said.

Police were called to the address by ambulance staff but it was not known who phoned emergency services for help.

Child Youth and Family (CYF) had been alerted to the incident.

Southern regional director Kelly Anderson said CYF was working alongside police to support the child and his family.

"This is a deeply distressing case where a child was seriously injured in a horrendous manner. Our main concern is to help this child and protect them from further harm," she said.

While the police investigation continued CYF would "refrain from commenting further on this matter".

Child advocacy group Child Matters chief executive Anthea Simcock said such cases of abuse happened all too often in New Zealand, but they "never fail to upset".

In 2012, there were 21,000 substantiated cases of child abuse nationwide, equating to about 58 a day, she said.

The highest proportion of child abuse was inflicted on children under six years old as they were "the most vulnerable".

Many others would have gone unreported.

"It's just unbearable to think that child had to suffer that way," she said.

"Let's not forget when we see horrific injuries like these, we remember those children [who] don't come to our attention."

Simcock said it was a reminder to people everywhere to be vigilant about what was happening in their communities and to seek help if they suspected a child was at risk.

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- The Press

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