Car thief who abandoned baby jailed

A man who abandoned an 11-month-old child next to a 100kmh highway in Southland has been sent to jail.

He was told the baby's family were still struggling to get over what had happened.

Charanjit Singh, 31, a Greymouth man of no fixed abode, appeared for sentence yesterday in the Invercargill District Court after admitting six charges including abandoning an 11-month-old child, driving while forbidden, driving recklessly, unlawfully taking a Mazda CX9 valued at $58,000, stealing an Apple iPhone and failing to stop for police at Gore on November 11.

He pleaded guilty yesterday to an earlier offence of driving while forbidden.

He was sentenced to 12 months' jail and disqualified from driving for 12 months. He was not ordered to pay reparation because he did not have the means.

Judge Phil Moran told Singh his offending had a severe impact on the child's family and they were still struggling to get over what they thought was the loss of their young child. He had put the safety of the child at risk.

The police summary of facts says on November 11 Singh was hitchhiking in Southland. He was dropped off in Balfour where he left his backpack in the bushes on the corner of State Highway 94 and Queens St and walked into town.

Judge Moran yesterday said Singh spotted a vehicle with keys in it outside a dairy and decided to take it but after driving off he discovered there was a child in the backseat.

He stopped and tried to get the carseat out with the baby in it but could not so he took the baby out and left him on the side of the highway, Judge Moran said.

The mother and owner of the vehicle was inside a dairy. Her young son noticed the vehicle was missing and told his mother, leaving her in a "dreadful state", he said.

The child was quickly found and returned to his mother but Singh had driven off at speed and when pursued by police he failed to stop, Judge Moran said.

He lost control of the vehicle and rolled it down a bank before running off but he was apprehended by police, who discovered an iPhone on him, he said.

The iPhone belonged to the child's mother. Singh's lawyer John Fraser said he had pleaded guilty immediately and apologised to the mother from court at his last appearance.

At his last appearance Singh said: "Sorry for what I've done. If I knew the kid was in the car I wouldn't have done that . . . I'm really sorry to the mother."

The Southland Times