William Wakefield's life sentence for baby-shaking murder

William Martin Wakefield admitted fatally shaking his baby step-son, and a jury found the killing was murder, not manslaughter. (File photo)
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
William Martin Wakefield admitted fatally shaking his baby step-son, and a jury found the killing was murder, not manslaughter. (File photo)

The killer of a 5-month-old baby has escaped serving at least 17 years of a life jail term for his crime.

William Martin Wakefield was still sentenced to life imprisonment but will instead be considered for parole after 14 years and nine months.

Wakefield, 32, was found guilty at the High Court in Wellington of murdering his step-son Lincoln at Upper Hutt in June, 2018.

Justice Robert Dobson sentenced Wakefield to life imprisonment but was troubled by the minimum non-parole period. (File photo)
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Justice Robert Dobson sentenced Wakefield to life imprisonment but was troubled by the minimum non-parole period. (File photo)

He shook the nearly 5-month-old boy repeatedly because he said he could not accept Lincoln was not his. He and the mother began their relationship when she was already pregnant. 

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Lincoln's mother, whose name was suppressed, said in court that she hoped the image of his big hands shaking the little body would play over and over in Wakefield's mind.

Prosecutor Sally Carter said Wakefield was guilty of murder because he wanted to cause harm that carried a real risk of death and went ahead anyway. (File photo)
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Prosecutor Sally Carter said Wakefield was guilty of murder because he wanted to cause harm that carried a real risk of death and went ahead anyway. (File photo)

She said Wakefield had been controlling and manipulative, repeatedly telling her she was lucky to have a smart man like him and not a "loser".

"Would a smart man do what you have done?" she asked him in court.

When Lincoln's head injury was suspected to be non-accidental Wakefield had at first tried to tell police that he had dropped the baby while bathing him. As the interview progressed though he admitted more and more, finally saying, "I just wanted to hurt him until he wasn't there."

William Wakefield admitted he was guilty of manslaughter but the Crown's view that he was guilty of murder was proved correct. (File photo)
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF
William Wakefield admitted he was guilty of manslaughter but the Crown's view that he was guilty of murder was proved correct. (File photo)

Having made a clean breast of it on the day Lincoln died worked in his favour with the judge at sentencing.

After the hearing Wakefield's mother had hugged the police officer who had coaxed the confession from him.

Wakefield, with an extensive suite of computer equipment for gaming and work, had persuaded Lincoln's mother he would look after the baby at home while she worked four days a week.

The back section flat where Wakefield, the baby Lincoln, and the mother, whose name is suppressed, was cordoned off for searching after Lincoln was fatally injured. (File photo)
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF
The back section flat where Wakefield, the baby Lincoln, and the mother, whose name is suppressed, was cordoned off for searching after Lincoln was fatally injured. (File photo)

She did not know that before the fatal acts Wakefield had already shaken Lincoln, causing a brain bleed.

Then on June 11, 2018, Wakefield shook Lincoln again, calling for help when he became unresponsive.

Wakefield was found guilty of murder on the basis he intended hurting Lincoln, knowing shaking could kill him, and went ahead anyway.

Lincoln's vulnerability meant it was legally presumed Wakefield should be sentenced to serve at least 17 years before parole. Wakefield's lawyer had asked for that minimum time to be 13 years.

The judge decided on the 14 years and nine months' minimum term taking into account Lincoln's vulnerability but also what he accepted was Wakefield's genuine remorse.

He found that the 17-year directed minimum would have been clearly unjust.

To Lincoln's family, and others who were appalled at such killings and wanted an even stronger deterrent, the judge said the sentence did not mean their hurt, anger and concern to deter such ghastly offending had not been heard. His responsibility was to review all the pluses and minuses.

After the hearing defence lawyer Steve Gill supported the judge's thoughtful approach.

But a police officer speaking on behalf of Lincoln's family said they were disappointed with the minimum sentence and thought it was not long enough.

"They feel society needs to change because these are our vulnerable children. They think we have a very serious problem and they don't want anyone else going through what they have gone through as a family."

Detective Sergeant Rachael Boyd said babies were the most vulnerable members of society and should never be shaken.

"It simply cannot continue...We were pleased the jury convicted him of murder and that was the right outcome." 

Wakefield had an older daughter with whom he was said to have a positive relationship.

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