A man who abandoned an 11-month-old boy alone on the side of a Southland highway after stealing a car has been jailed for 12 months.
Charanjit Singh, 31, appeared today before Judge Philip Moran in the Invercargill District Court on seven charges. Six of the charges related to the incident on November 11 when he took a $58,000 Mazda CX9 car left with its keys in it outside a dairy in Balfour while its owner bought lunch.
Singh, who had been hitch-hiking, drove a short distance when he noticed the baby in the back asleep in his car seat. He removed the child from his seat, placed him on the side of the highway, got his backpack and drove off at speed.
A passing truck driver who saw the boy being placed on the side of the road returned him to his mother and police.
Police began chasing Singh in a marked patrol car but he failed to stop.
He turned down a no-exit gravel road leading to the Mataura River, and when the road ran out, drove across paddocks before losing control of the vehicle and going over a small bank.
He ran off but was arrested a short time later.
At his first court appearance, Singh, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking the Mazda, theft of the complainant's $750 iPhone, failing to stop for police, abandoning a child, driving when forbidden and reckless driving.
Today he admitted a seventh charge - driving while disqualified at Westport in April.
Singh had a history of mental health difficulties and a pre-sentence report said he was self-absorbed and thought of himself rather than others, Judge Moran said.
As well as the current charges, he had three previous convictions for unlawfully taking cars and had been sentenced in September to 40 hours' community work for frightening behaviour in a camping ground.
Judge Moran said he agreed with probation staff, who did not support a sentence of home detention because of Singh's mental instability and a lack of confidence he would complete the sentence.
He sentenced him to a total of 12 months in prison, and disqualified him from driving for 12 months. The community work sentence was cancelled.
No order for reparation for the damaged vehicle was made as Singh had no assets.