Jail term for daughter's neglect

By Sam Hurley -
Joanne Quinn. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Joanne Quinn. Photo / Glenn Taylor

A seemingly indifferent Joanne Quinn showed no emotion as she was sentenced to two years and six months behind bars for letting her elderly mother rot away on a couch.

Yesterday the 51-year-old was sentenced in the Napier District Court in what Judge Jonathan Down described as a "severe case of neglect'' never before seen in New Zealand.

Judge Down said the case was an extreme level of neglect during a period of two weeks which "accelerated [her mother's] death''.

He said the testimony of a medical witness during the trial was 'striking''.

He was disturbed hearing the accounts of medical staff who discovered Joanne Quinn's 82-year-old mother, Maureen Quinn, on November 15, 2011, embedded in a couch and blanket with festering leg wounds.

"It was [Quinn] who took on the responsibility of [her mother's] care. She was total reliant on her,'' Judge Down said. "This case lacked the mother-and-daughter relationship required when a daughter is caring for an elderly parent.''

He said other family members who did not notice the condition of the 82-year-old may have only found an "unpleasant smell'' in the house, but never witnessed the wounds.

"They were not the people that should have ensured [Maureen Quinn] was appropriately fed, watered and her wounds dressed.''

Crown prosecutor Steve Manning said during his submissions: "The extent of the neglect and the callous nature was so severe ... this requires a term of imprisonment.

"Ms Quinn senior was no less vulnerable than a young child, such was her reliance on her daughter.''

Quinn's lawyer Matt Dixon argued his clients character was such that she would be unaware when someone needed assistance or would rely on her for medical treatment.

He said Maureen Quinn was "domineering'' and Joanne Quinn's treatment of her mother was naivety and not malice.

"Like others of [Maureen Quinn's] generation she was unwilling to accept help, even when her situation was dire.''

Throughout the trial Joanne Quinn appeared calm, expressing little remorse or emotion, barring one outburst following her plea as she attempted to profess her innocence to the court.

She remained in the same attire during the three-day trial - a white blouse and black skirt.

However, yesterday she wore a brown jacket and black framed glasses.

Her straggly blonde hair would droop over her eyes as she furiously scribbled down notes while sitting next to her counsel and she would seldom look directly at the witnesses.

However, she threw a sharp, venomous glare towards media representatives sitting in the jury box while a video of her police interview was shown.

She remained seemingly heartless and numb, even as drama filled the courtroom when her sister, Lena Tracy Quinn, slapped her while she was waiting in the public gallery on the final morning of her trial.

Lena Quinn was in court to witness the sentencing yesterday but sat on the opposite side of the public gallery from her sister, with two security guards between them, as the accused sister waited to be called to the dock.

The story of their mother, who died from bronchial pneumonia six weeks after she was discovered in her Marewa home, was entrenched in the memories of the witnesses during the trial.

Maureen Quinn had lived in the house for 60 years, raised eight children and was completely dependent on her daughter's support when her husband died in 2006.

On day two of the trial, Detective Toni Leppien told the court she interviewed the elderly woman the day after she was admitted to hospital, beginning the criminal investigation.

"There was one time during the interview where I held her hand and she said, 'Your hand is so warm. I can't remember the last time someone touched me','' Ms Leppien said.

"She [Maureen Quinn] said, 'I can't believe I had eight children and I've ended up in this state'.''

Judge Down said at the giving his verdict that he was struck by the moment Ms Leppien gave an account of holding hands with Maureen Quinn in hospital.

He said the 82-year-old was referring to the warmth and comfort that must have been missing from her home environment.

Maureen Quinn's granddaughter told Hawke's Bay Today after the trial it was "devastating'' to discover her aunt had neglected her Nanna.

"If you banged on the door she would say she was calling the police.

None of us could get in to see Nanna.''

Detective John McGregor, of the Hawke's Bay Criminal Investigation Branch, spoke to media outside court yesterday following the sentencing.

He said it was the right sentence to show the seriousness of the offending, which he described as "top of the line''.

He added there was no precedent for the case, never seen in New Zealand or elsewhere in the world.

For more articles from this region, go to

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 19 Dec 2014 09:22:22 Processing Time: 594ms