I've been threatened, says relative of accused

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
Caleb Skinner
Supplied.
LONG RECOVERY: Caleb Skinner.

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A relative of a man charged with assaulting Wairarapa toddler Caleb Skinner, leaving him with brain damage, says she has received death threats.

At his second appearance in Masterton District Court yesterday, Jason Mark Sutherland, 39, of Masterton, did not enter a plea on a charge of wounding Caleb with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, nor to new charges of assaulting another child and breaching a protection order.

Interim name suppression for Sutherland lapsed yesterday and Judge Mary O'Dwyer declined an application to renew it. However, she suppressed the second child's name.

A relative of Sutherland left the court in tears after the appearance.

Outside she said she had been threatened on Facebook. "They said people would come and do to my children what he has allegedly done to [Caleb]."

Another message told her to "start planning Jason's funeral". The woman asked not to be named because of the threats.

Sutherland, an orchard worker, has been in custody since March 3, the day Caleb was found unconscious at his Masterton home, where Sutherland also lived.

A member of Caleb's wider family, who asked not to be named, told The Dominion Post Sutherland was in a relationship with Caleb's mother.

Sutherland's relative said she was shocked by the charges and that people should not make assumptions about the case.

"He's been a loving father to his three kids that were in his care and nothing like this has ever happened . . .

"He adores his kids, he's absolutely devastated that he can't see them."

Caleb was flown to Auckland's Starship children's hospital with a serious head injury after the alleged assault.

Last week he was transferred to Wilson Centre for Children's rehabilitation service in Takapuna, where he is expected to stay for several weeks with his parents, Joanne Smith and Daryll Skinner.

A spokeswoman for the centre said Caleb was in a stable condition. Doctors have said previously that he has suffered some brain damage.

Family spokesman Trevor Mackiewicz, of independent trust Wairarapa Advocate Service, said Caleb was progressing well but "very slowly" and his parents hoped to know soon when they could bring him back to Masterton.

At an earlier court appearance, Sutherland was charged with assaulting a child, but yesterday's was his first appearance on the upgraded grievous bodily harm charge.

Judge O'Dwyer remanded him in custody on all charges until April 10.

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- The Dominion Post

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