Man jailed for shooting daughter

An eight-year-old girl was shot in the heel and deliberately burned with a lighter by her father so he could "see what happened", the Hawera District Court heard yesterday.

In sentencing Phillip Andrew Benge, 27, to prison, Judge Allan Roberts said the courts would show no mercy to people who used violence against children.

"Indiscriminate violence against children is not going to go unnoticed," the judge said.

His daughter, in her victim impact statement to the court, had written: "I was sad when dad burnt me on the arm. But things are alright now."

Benge's lawyer, Julian Hannam said that his client was genuinely remorseful. Both Child Youth and Family, which was supervising the family, and the detective in charge of the case did not think prison was appropriate for Benge, Mr Hannam said.

But the judge said the man whose role it was to protect the little girl in her care had deliberately burned her for no other reason than to see what happened.

Mr Hannam replied that it was possible the consumption of cannabis was the cause because of its affect in suspending usual judgments.

It was the only way one could rationalise the behaviour, Mr Hannam said.

"I'm going to jail you," the judge told Benge.

"There is no other sentence that realistically deals with the gravity of your offending."

Benge had pleaded guilty to recklessly discharging a firearm in October which had injured his daughter when it hit her on the heel. When the incidents occurred, Benge had been living under the same roof as his partner. At the time, a group had been firing an air rifle and a pistol at targets and the girl was shot in the heel, the judge said.

"Why on earth a grown man would be firing a weapon with a child present defies any reasonable explanation," the judge said.

Then on October 9, Benge had been drinking with a 14-year-old at his former home. The teenager had been heating up a cigarette lighter and burning himself.

"You heated it [the lighter] up and seized this young girl by her right arm and pressed it on to the inside of her bicep."

She had pulled away and the lighter had also burned her chest. The two violent incidents would give confused messages to the young girl who was entitled to look to him for protection, the judge told Benge.

Benge was refused home detention and sentenced to four months in prison.

Taranaki Daily News