Editorial: Sentence doesn't go far enough

By Andrew Austin


A 20-year-old father breaks his daughter's legs and causes other injuries in assaults before she is even four months old and he gets to go home and sleep in his own bed.

Our front page lead story yesterday about James Robert Hall, getting the maximum possible home detention sentence of 12 months for causing injuries to his little girl is enough to upset any fair-minded person.

Hall has pleaded guilty and admitted to bending the child's leg back behind her neck and clutching her too tightly. He also indicated that he was having problems coping and bonding with the infant.

You should have thought of that before you got your partner pregnant, James.

We have received a lot of feedback on this case and a lot of anger has been directed at this young man. All of it is deserved. He did the most despicable thing anyone could do - he picked on an innocent child (his own flesh and blood, no less), who could not fight back.

He should have been protecting her, not hurting her. He is lucky he only got home detention. He should be in jail.

It concerns me that home detention was even an option for this crime.

Now I know that there are certain rules and criteria built into the justice system to make it fair and these checks and safeguards do generally ensure that someone is not punished more than they should be. What the justice system should not do, however, is punish the victim again by making a mockery of what it stands for. Lobby group Family First has urged the crown to appeal the sentence saying it sends a dangerous message.

I am not prone to criticising our judges because they have a tough job and who would want to have to make the decisions they make on a daily basis? But, I do find the following statement from Judge Mary Peters quite astounding: "Anyone who thinks home detention is a soft option should think again."

The judge added that "many people" sentenced to home detention soon start to think they might be "better off in prison," because of the extra "freedom".

You have got be kidding me! Even the worst possible flat in Hastings would be better than prison.

Our court reporters inform me that judges are forever telling defence lawyers trying to get their clients home detention that they will not "sentence someone to sleep in their own bed".

Well, this is exactly what has happened in this case.

Hall gets to sleep in his own bed at night, while a little girl is emotionally scarred for life and other child abusers think they may just get away with their crimes.

It makes you wonder if our justice system lived up to its name on this one.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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