A Tauranga man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a 17-month-old toddler who he violently assaulted.
Adrian Colin Clancy, 39, was sentenced in the High Court at Tauranga this afternoon for the murder of toddler Sadie-Leigh Gardner in March 2019.
He was found guilty by a jury in the High Court of Rotorua on March 25.
The jury's unanimous verdict came nearly two years to the day after Sadie-Leigh was admitted to Starship hospital with unsurvivable head injuries.
Clancy denied fatally injuring the 17-month-old while she was in his sole care in a Tauranga home on March 27, 2019, and she died two days later in Starship.
Clancy is a former partner of the toddler's mother.
The Crown case was that Clancy violently assaulted the child after she was left in his care while her mother went to an appointment across town.
The defence argued there was no Crown evidence Clancy had harmed the child in any way.
A physical examination of Sadie-Leigh when initially admitted to Tauranga Hospital on March 27 revealed a haematoma on the right side of the back of her head.
The jury heard evidence that the toddler's eyes were fixed and forced to one side and she was critically unwell.
CT scans revealed she had suffered significant bilateral subdural brain bleeds and a fracture to the right side of her skull just below the right ear, the jury was told.
A post-mortem examination revealed brain swelling and bleeding and a fracture to Sadie-Leigh's right scapula.
The toddler also had significant retinal haemorrhages to both eyes and was unable to see.
The Crown's medical experts gave evidence there was no prior history of a significant fall or traumatic blunt force injury to the toddler that would otherwise explain her injuries.
Jenson said there was no suggestion of prior trauma or significant change in Sadie-Leigh's behaviour before she was left alone in Clancy's care.
There had been considerable evidence the toddler was safe and acting normally - albeit a bit grizzly as she had a cold - before being put to bed by Clancy, he said.
Jenson said there was also no suggestion of any cover-up by her other carers that day.
When the jury weighed up the totality of the evidence they could reach the "inescapable conclusion" Clancy intended to kill Sadie-Leigh when he violently assaulted her, he said.
Defence lawyer Kerry Tustin told the jury that from the outset her client denied causing any harm to Sadie-Leigh and there was no evidence he harmed the child in any way.
The defence's medical expert Professor Dr Johan Duflou said in the absence of any direct or observed evidence of a deliberate act by Clancy, in his opinion this was an accidental impact or significant fall.
Today Crown prosecutor Richard Jenson submitted to Justice Christian Whata that a minimum non-parole period of 17-years was entirely justified.
He argued it would not be manifestly unjust given the gravity of the offending, the significant vulnerability of the child and serious breach of trust.
Tustin urged Justice Whata to impose a lower minimum non-parole period of 15 years.
She cited the fact Clancy had no prior convictions for violence and said the numerous letters of support before the court attested to Clancy's non-violent character.
Despite Clancy's continued denials of the charge, she urged the judge to step away from the higher non-parole period.
However, Justice Whata sentenced Clancy to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years, which he said was warranted given the facts of this case.