People at a tangi tried to tell a 5-year-old girl how to get out of a locked car as her year-old brother kept tooting the horn and their mum lay passed out drunk beside them.
The alleged incident on the final morning of a week-long tangi in Northland was one of several reasons an attendee at the tangi gave for later phoning the police with concerns about the children's welfare.
The children's mother, 40, was subsequently charged with two counts of child neglect and seven various assaults on her children. Her jury trial before Judge Taryn Bayley began yesterday in Whangārei District Court and is expected to end on Friday.
She cannot be named for legal reasons.
The Crown case includes the evidence of three people who were at the tangi, including the woman who phoned police.
Her evidence in the trial yesterday included her account of the children being locked in their car.
In cross-examination, counsel Jarred Scott suggested to the witness that at 5 years old, the girl already knew how to unlock the door and get out if she wanted. But the witness refuted it.
She confirmed the children did not seem overly upset but said it was clear they "wanted out" of the vehicle. Instead, they had to wait "two to three hours" for their mother to wake up.
The witness disapproved of the children sleeping in the car. Only adults were sleeping in cars, the witness said. The children should have been on beds in the marae with all the other children.
Each morning the youngsters emerged from the vehicle looking tired and unkempt. They were not being washed and only had a few changes of clothes throughout the week. It was winter but the toddler was in a singlet and nappy all week, the witness said.
She never saw the child's mother change the nappy.
The witness said she barely knew the accused, having only met her once before. But she looked "drunk" the entire week of the tangi and her children seemed inadequately cared for and were unsupervised.
The accused did not show her children any affection and sometimes angrily swore at them, the witness said.
At one point, she happened across the woman slapping her 5-year-old girl in the back of the head.
The witness claimed she also saw the accused pull the girl's ears.
When the tangi was over, the accused essentially dumped the girl on her and she was suddenly tasked with driving her home for an hour and a half, the witness said.
When she arrived at the place the woman and children were staying, she realised the girl was not in a booster seat – contrary to what the accused had assured her when she put the girl in the car, covering her with a mink blanket.
The witness confirmed to Scott she was not privy to any plans the woman might have made for her children during the tangi but knew she had a role in the kitchen.
She agreed the care of children at tangi was widely accepted as a communal task but said it did not excuse parents from their responsibility for their own children.
Scott said more than 100 people were at the tangi, including defence witnesses who would give the jury a far more positive view of his client's interactions with her children and the steps she took to look after them.
Crown counsel Nicole Jamieson told the jury that for the assault charges to be proved, they had to be sure that the woman's actions were intentional.
For the neglect charges to be proved, the jury had to be sure that the woman had actual care or charge of the children, that she omitted to perform a legal duty, that the omission was likely to cause suffering, injury, or adverse effects to a child and that it was a major departure from the standard of care expected from a reasonable person.