Baby killer verdict: Manslaughter 'doesn't do justice' says Bob McCoskrie

By Solbin Kang

Tawera Wesley Wichman, 24, was sentenced at the Wellington High Court to three years and 10 months in prison. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Tawera Wesley Wichman, 24, was sentenced at the Wellington High Court to three years and 10 months in prison. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Anyone inflicting violence against children should be charged with murder, rather than manslaughter, a family safety advocate says.

Tawera Wesley Wichman, 24, was sentenced at the Wellington High Court today to three years and 10 months in prison for shaking his 11-month-old daughter Teegan Tairoa-Wichman to death in 2009.

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said this was a tragic case which involved a vulnerable family.

"He [Wichman] was young and it seemed like there was support to start with and it dissipated over time.

"The support lessened over time but it was pretty evident the family weren't out of the woods yet," he said.

He thought a manslaughter charge shouldn't apply when extreme violence was inflicted on babies and toddlers.

"Children are vulnerable. To argue that injury or death was not intentional, so therefore murder can't be applied ... it doesn't do justice."

McCoskrie said in this case, the parents were told of the dangers of shaking a baby.

"They knew they couldn't shake a baby.

"When dealing with children and babies, you should be able to foresee shaking or treating a baby or toddler roughly or with violence could result in injury or death," he said.

He said it was clear Child Youth and Family (CYF) had high concerns for the twins when they were discharged from the special-care baby unit.

"To me, this shows the whole issue of when the red flags are raised and when it is clear these are the ones we need to put time and resources into."

He said it didn't matter whether the act of violence was just one-off or over a long period of time.

Anti-child abuse advocate and creator of the Facebook page 'STOP Death and Abuse of our Children' Cherie Kurarangi said today's sentencing was "more than too light".

"There is too much tolerance for the way our babies are treated.

"We know he was a young dad but where was that recognition when she was alive?

"One thing I'm struggling with as well, with every single [child abuse] case is they need a range of support to manage the dysfunctions going on and the stress levels in their lives."

Kurarangi said Wichman could have asked for help earlier.

"Nark on yourself. Say it before you do it and we might be able to help."

New Zealanders shouldn't be just relying on government organisation CYF -- communities should help and support struggling families.

"We can't just rely on one agency we can all do something.

"It takes a village to raise a family."

Child Youth and Family Regional central director Karen Hocking confirmed the family were known to the agency.

"Given the premature birth of the twins, considerable support was wrapped around the young parents to help them manage their babies," she said in a statement.

"Before the twins were discharged from hospital a plan was worked out to ensure a family member was in the home to provide extra support and monitoring.

"After they were discharged, CYF made several home visits.

"The parents appeared to be managing well and had a lot of support from both their extended families and from community agencies. Child, Youth and Family had no ongoing involvement with the family at the time of Teegan's death.

"The Court has found Wichman responsible for Teegan's death and he is being held to account for that."

- NZ Herald

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