Assault mum pleads for help

18:20, Apr 03 2014

A Taranaki judge has given a young mother a chance to get her life in order because she sought help after trying to suffocate her 2-year-old son with a pillow.

In the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, Judge Allan Roberts described what happened as tragic.

"You say you snapped and your son pressed your buttons," he said.

He accepted the mother had personal issues, a lack of ability to cope and was struggling.

There was genuine remorse, she was now attending a health provider and working with Child, Youth and Family.

Police had attended a number of incidents in which she had been involved, the judge noted. If she hadn't admitted what she had done it was possible no-one would ever have known.


Judge Roberts sentenced Joniette Mae Hunter to nine months' supervision as recommended by her probation officer and ordered her to attend a parenting programme.

The 25-year-old Inglewood solo mother has voluntarily given up her two young children who are now in foster care.

After admitting the assault, the depressed woman has finally been given the help she needed but never received.

She told police she could have killed her 2-year 10-month-old boy. Immediately after the assault, she rang her father who came to her assistance. She also told the Open Home Foundation the next day.

Her lawyer Patrick Mooney said Hunter clearly had mental health issues including depression and childcare issues.

She had reached out for help but was not given it.

"She was certainly a young woman calling out for help but for whatever reason that help was not always available."

Initially she had not picked up her medication because she could not afford it but was now taking it.

The summary of facts, not read out to the court, says Hunter was a solo mother caring for two young children.

She was bathing the younger brother when the older boy came into the bathroom and began to misbehave.

She described to police how she lost her temper and slapped him repeatedly on his body and limbs. When he fell backward she continued to strike him, kicking him and pinching him on his upper arm.

He ran to the bedroom, hiding under the bed.

She followed, pulled him out rolled him on to his back and held a pillow down on his face smothering him.

"He screamed throughout saying, I can't breathe," the summary says.

About 10 seconds later after he started flailing his arms, she took the pillow away.

She told police she "had just seen red and lost all self control".

"She said she could feel in her head what she was doing but could not physically stop herself."

Next day she rang Open Home Foundation and told them, agreeing to a temporary care order. The children were placed in foster care.

The child was examined by a paediatrician the next day. A dark bruise was found on his upper left arm and bruising on his buttocks.

Child, Youth and Family's central region director John Langley said in all such situations, CYF worked in the best interests of the children. "This was a traumatic situation for the child.

"Child, Youth and Family is working with the family to ensure the children are safe and being well cared for.

"As with all situations like these, we work in the best interests of the children. This involves working with parents, caregivers, wider family, services and the courts to come to the best decision for all involved," Langley said.

Taranaki Daily News