Sentence increased Abusive dad jailed


 A Hastings man who broke his daughter's legs is now jail-bound after the Court of Appeal reversed a previous sentence of home detention.

James Robert Hall, 21, has now been sentenced to 2 years and 5 months jail as a result of a rare Solicitor-General appeal against the original sentence of 12 months home detention.

The original sentence was imposed by Justice Mary Peters in the High Court in Napier on August 13, while the appeal was later heard by three judges in Wellington last month.

A reserved decision was delivered yesterday, upholding the appeal, quashing the original sentence and directing Hall to report to Hastings Police by 10am on Monday to begin serving his time in jail.

Napier barrister Scott Jefferson, who represented Hall at both the sentencing and the appeal, said last night he had spoken with his client during the day but had no instructions to make any comment.

But quick to comment were those who spoke out after the August sentencing.

Calling the offences "heinous," Sensible Sentencing spokesman Garth McVicar, of Te Haroto, said: "We are delighted that the Solicitor-General heeded our call to appeal the original sentence."

"We hope this ruling sends a strong message to the public and judges that child abuse will not be tolerated in New Zealand."

Family First NZ director Bob McCoskrie, who had also written to the Solicitor-General urging an appeal, said the organisation welcomed the outcome.

The infant, who has her name suppressed, was born in November 2010 and was living with her teenaged parents in Napier when the assaults came to police attention on March 22, 2011.

Hospital staff found multiple fractures, including a possibly older corner fracture to the right upper arm, three older fractures of the right thigh bone, a fracture to the left thigh bone with separate corner fractures, an older fracture to the left shin bone, and bruising to the left left leg and upper pelvic areas.

Interviewed by police, Hall admitted causing harm to the child and later pleaded guilty to one charge of causing grievous bodily harm on March 20, 2011, with intent to injure, and a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard for his daughter's safety, representing older injuries.

He admitted angrily bending the infant's legs up her back as he struggled to cope with parenting, claiming he had not realised the damage he could cause.

While the Crown sought a prison sentence, Justice Peters took into account his admissions and youth before deciding on the maximum-possible home detention sentence of one year, which the Solicitor-General appealed on the basis it was manifestly inadequate and "wrong in principle."

The Court of Appeal Judges, including Justice Graham Lang, a former Crown prosecutor in Napier, accepted the Crown argument that the starting point of three years and three months set by Justice Peters before calculating the actual term was too low, and the 20 per cent deduction she gave recognising Hall's youth was "overly generous."

The Crown had argued those features suggested an artificial "tailoring" of the sentence to result in a notional end sentence of two years, a judicial threshhold at which the judge was entitled to consider home detention as a sentence.

The appeal judges decided a four-year starting point, as initially sought by the Crown, was appropriate, and drew attention to the defenceless nature of the baby, the seriousness of the injuries and psychological effect on the child, the irreparable breach of trust between father and daughter, and Hall's failure to correct initial medical opinion on the injuries, meant the girl did not receive appropriate treatment at those times.

Hall had completed 10 days of his home detention sentence, but the justices did not consider he should receive any reduction in the sentence they imposed.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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