Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Baby's abuse earns father home term

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

He subjected his newborn baby to months of torture, biting through her earlobe, twisting her toe until it snapped, fracturing her ribs and femur and gouging the soles of her feet with his fingernail. But he will not spend any time in prison.

Despite inflicting "significant and repetitive violence" on the baby girl, leaving her little body covered in marks and bruises, Jack Alexander Booker was sentenced to 12 months' home detention.

The 22-year-old cried as he was sentenced in the North Shore District Court yesterday. He was facing up to five years' jail on three charges of physically abusing his daughter, who was just a month old when it began.

But because he had no criminal history, pleaded guilty as early as possible and had taken steps to change his violent behaviour, he got a substantial discount, meaning he was eligible for home detention.

The Herald understands the Crown will not appeal the sentence and had expected either a lengthy home detention or a short stint in prison for Booker.

Judge Nevin Dawson described the abuse as "abhorrent" and began sentencing with jail time in mind.

"Your abuse was cruel. It's distressing to see a beautiful young child like this with injuries caused by a parent."

He said Booker was "genuinely and sincerely horrified", "extremely remorseful" and had already taken steps towards rehabilitation and anger management.

"You should not underestimate how close you were to prison today," Judge Dawson told Booker.

Court documents said the baby, born in February, began to suffer from colic in early April, making it hard to feed and settle her. Booker became "very angry and frustrated" and the abuse started.

"Booker would bite her very hard on the ears," court documents stated.

He also bit the baby's face repeatedly and used his thumbnails to "pick and gouge" at the soles of her feet, then concocted stories about how she got the injuries to hide what he was doing from his partner.

His offending was uncovered on June 7 after he slapped and bit the baby then twisted her toe until it broke. Booker's partner rushed her to hospital, where the suspected abuse was reported to police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Brewer said the case was "very sad".

"It's not a case of a father who's not coping being home alone with a baby ... There's an aspect of torture in what he's done to this little girl."

APPEAL OVER HOME DETENTION UNLIKELY

This month the Court of Appeal quashed a sentence of home detention for a man who broke his baby daughter's legs - and sent him to prison instead.

James Robert Hall, 21, was initially sentenced to 12 months' home detention, which was described as "manifestly inadequate" considering the extent of the abuse.

A similar appeal is unlikely in Booker's case. A source said his offending was still extremely serious and unacceptable, but was on a lower level than that of Hall - who carried out a prolonged attack driven by "blind" and "unresolved" anger.

- NZ Herald

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