Few would not be moved by the photograph taken of Anita Cumming in the Dunedin District Court this week as she was jailed for a year.
During sentencing, Judge Michael Turner repeatedly asked her to restrain herself. "Please don't do this, sir," Cumming wailed. "Will someone help me?"
The court had heard how an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) had afflicted Anita Dorothy Cumming, 39. She would scream at her 71-year-old mother and force her out of bed to clean the house early in the mornings to "exacting specifications".
Māori have a slang for prison - hīnaki - meaning an eel basket. It would seem Anita Cumming's too-hard basket is indeed a prison cell.
Cumming had admitted three protection order breaches, which had been put in place to shield her mother from such attacks.
Eventually, Cumming was carried from the dock by Corrections guards and could be heard yelling for some time. Later, she was beamed in by audio-visual link (on mute) so the sentencing could take place unhindered.
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A psychologist's report said Anita had an "insecure attachment pattern", relying on her mother to alleviate her anxieties inherent with OCD.
Judge Turner said even if there was a home-detention address available, only imprisonment was appropriate. "To permit you to return home will only lead to further offending and harm to your mother," he said.
While on bail in Tauranga, Cumming breached her conditions by calling the victim and when at Wakari Hospital, she left the grounds and took a taxi to her mother's home.
Psychotherapist and Herald columnist Kyle MacDonald said after the sentencing Cumming was clearly a person who needed help. "This is not a person who needs imprisoning," he said. "Being in prison is unlikely to enable her to access the help she needs."
Cumming's lawyer said there weren't enough options aside from jail for dealing with people such as her client. Patricia Cumming meanwhile stood by her daughter and said she would continue to offer her unwavering love and support. She attributed her daughter's decline to her treatment through the mental health system. "She's in the too-hard basket."
The Herald has received some complaints about using Cumming's photo. We made the difficult decision to do so only after considerable thought. The photo is confronting. And while the accompanying court report accurately documented the hearing, we felt the image most truly represented what took place in that courtroom. The photograph informs the public in a way words cannot.
Māori have a slang for prison - hīnaki - meaning an eel basket. It would seem Anita Cumming's too-hard basket is a prison cell. That is wrong: We are not only failing to treat our ailing people, we are slamming a door in their face.
Corrections chief executive Ray Smith reported in 2016 his department was managing more people with mental illness than any other institution in New Zealand.
It's estimated one in five New Zealanders experience mental illness in their lifetime. In prison these figures are significantly higher - more than nine out of 10 (91 per cent) people had a lifetime diagnosis of a mental health or substance use disorder.
In the wake of coverage of Anita Cumming's sentence, many have asked whether prison is the right place for such cases. Currently, it seems it is the only place. Surely, this is not acceptable.
Three areas identified in last month's Wellbeing Budget offer hope: Improving support for people experiencing a mental health crisis; mental wellbeing support for parents and whānau; and forensic mental health services for adults and young people. The latter assures investment will "ensure safe and secure mental health services are available for people within the justice system or integrating back into the community".
Would it be so. The image of Anita Cumming's anguished face during this ordeal should move us all - and it should move us to action.