One guilty verdict at cruelty trial

Last updated 11:32 02/02/2013

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A South African man has been convicted of one child cruelty charge at the end of a week-long Christchurch District Court trial.

The jury took more than nine hours to reach its verdicts yesterday evening on the fifth day of the trial before Judge Paul Kellar.

The jury could not reach verdicts on two child cruelty charges against the 38-year-old man who faced criminal prosecution over his treatment of his stepdaughter. The Crown's abuse allegations included belittling of the child, and favouring his own daughter, to the point where the girl began self-harming.

The guilty verdict was unanimous, but the jury returned majority verdicts acquitting him on assault with intent to injure charges - one when he claimed self-defence while she was threatening him with a knife, and another where the girl alleged he had choked her.

Judge Kellar remanded the man on bail for sentencing on March 11, and ordered a pre-sentence report to assess the man's suitability for home or community detention.

He said he believed a community-based sentence was likely, and Crown prosecutor Pip Currie agreed.

The judge thanked the jury, saying that it had been "a really difficult case" in terms of evaluating the evidence. "I appreciated there could be deep divisions within your number," he said. "It is not a matter of more straightforward crime."

The family moved from South Africa to live in Invercargill and Christchurch. The girl has now returned to South Africa and gave evidence from there by video-link.

Defence counsel Denise Johnston put to the trial that the man's behaviour had been a response to the girl's challenging behaviour including defiance, disrespect, and turning to Satanism in a Christian household.

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- Fairfax Media

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