Parents guilty of neglect

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 12:01 30/01/2014

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Parents of a 10-week-old boy found with multiple broken bones have been found guilty of neglect.

A jury in this Napier District Court this morning found the woman, 35, and her husband, 43, guilty of a charge of wilfully neglecting the boy between his birth on January 26, 2011, and March 25, 2011.

The couple have name suppression.

The jury took less than two hours to reach their verdict after a three-day trial.

The parents were remanded in custody to be sentenced in March

The Crown said the boy suffered multiple fractures while living with his parents in Lower Hutt.

The boy's injuries were not discovered until early April, after the mother moved to Hastings and took him to a doctor for his immunisation shots.

When it was noticed the baby had a badly swollen thigh he was sent to Hawke's Bay Hospital. X-rays showed fractures to both legs, his pelvis and left big toe.

The Crown said it was unknown who caused the injuries or how they were caused, but the boy would have been in great pain and his parents would have known he needed medical help.

Paediatricians told the court the boy would have been in "excruciating pain" and the parents would have been aware of this.

In court yesterday, the mother said she had falsified a birth certificate and lied to doctors and police to pretend to be the biological mother.

She had told police the boy had been left alone with a homeless woman on several occasions when the couple went shopping or fishing.

She never saw any bruises or marks on the baby and he only cried when he had his nappy changed, she said.

She admitted she fooled doctors into thinking she had given birth to the baby after agreeing to take him from her cousin, who was an overstayer.

Her cousin put the woman's name on the medical certificate to access free healthcare, the court heard.

In his closing address, Crown Solicitor Steve Manning said the mother's sustained lies did not make her guilty but did put her honesty in question. The mother's claim that the couple took in a homeless woman, and left her to care for the baby at times, was a "red herring".

Defence lawyers said the couple had acted as responsible parents by seeking medical treatment when the baby contracted a respiratory illness while still in Lower Hutt.

Lawyer Roger Philip said if the mother was as "cold-hearted" and "devious" as the Crown suggested, why did she register the baby at a Hastings GP, have him immunised, then question swelling in his leg which she thought was a reaction to the immunisation.

"She acted as a mother would," Philip said.

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"She brought her child to medical care when she saw the child in need."

Judge Tony Adeane said yesterday the jury did not have to worry about who inflicted the injuries, but should judge the conduct of the parents after the baby was hurt.

Turning a blind eye to a child who doctors said would be in "excruciating pain" would be enough to convict the couple of neglect.

- The Dominion Post

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