WARNING: This story deals with the subject of child abuse and may be upsetting for some readers.
A Napier mother in jail for punching and hitting her daughter with a hammer, and then trying to hide the injuries under face paint on an Air New Zealand flight, has failed in a bid to have her sentence reduced.
The woman went to the Court of Appeal, trying to introduce new evidence about the impact that colonisation and intergenerational violence had on wāhine Māori and their ability to care for whānau.
She appealed against the length of her 38-month jail sentence, arguing that there was a “causal link” between her background in violent gang life and her use of violence in parenting.
The court dismissed her appeal, saying these factors had already been taken into account in her sentencing.
The woman cannot be named for legal reasons. She is identified as “M” in the Court of Appeal judgment released on Friday.
She was sentenced to three years and two months in prison in January last year on charges of injuring with intent to injure, assault with a weapon, ill-treatment and neglect of a child, and two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Her abuse of the girl was discovered in June 2020 when she tried to send the child as an unaccompanied minor from Hawke’s Bay Airport to an aunt in the South Island.
At the time, the girl was 9 and subject to a custody order placing her under Oranga Tamariki, but was in her mother’s day-to-day care.
Court documents state the woman had hit the girl repeatedly on her body, punched her repeatedly on the lip and hit her on the head with a hammer.
The girl’s injuries included extensive bruising from head to toe, a nasal bone fracture, cuts on her face, a cut and swollen lower lip and multiple abrasions.
The woman did not seek medical help for the girl but put her on the flight, dressing her in a long-sleeved turtle-necked top and applying thick face paint to hide the injuries.
The flight attendants noticed her swollen and split lip, became suspicious and sought the girl’s permission to take off her face paint.
When they realised the extent of her injuries, the crew arranged for police and an ambulance to be at Christchurch Airport when the plane landed.
“M’s sister saw the police were at the plane when she was waiting to collect (the girl) and began communicating with M,” the appeal judgment said.
“M sent a series of text messages to her sister outlining a false story to tell the authorities, to the effect that (the girl) was clumsy and had hurt herself.
“M also sent her mother a false statement by text message and asked her mother to memorise it word for word and tell it to the authorities.”
Last year, in the Napier District Court, sentencing Judge Geoff Rea acknowledged that the woman had endured a “hard life”, a disadvantaged upbringing and that there was no doubt she had been a victim herself.
However, he was critical of her attempts to “manipulate” the people involved in the justice system and for bringing her matter to a defended trial where her daughter had to give evidence.
Judge Rea said the starting point for such violent offending was three years, but he lifted it by six months for the neglect in not taking the girl to a doctor.
He then added another six months for her efforts to make relatives lie about what had happened.
However, after receiving a cultural report and a letter saying sorry, he gave the woman a 15 per cent discount for the factors in her upbringing, and 5 per cent for remorse.
In her appeal, the woman argued that the starting point was too high and the discounts were insufficient.
“In support of the second ground (the discounts), M seeks to adduce fresh evidence in the form of a literature review which explains the disempowering impact of colonisation and intergenerational violence on wāhine Māori raised in violent gang life, and their ability to care for whānau,” the judgment said.
The appeal court judges said the woman’s cultural report “compellingly” identified factors that may have contributed causatively to her offending.
They acknowledged these included “the continuing harmful effects of colonisation, assimilation and urbanisation, along with M’s personal experiences of witnessing violence in her childhood” and suffering loss and trauma.
But they said that M was not as disadvantaged as many other offenders.
She was loved by her father, in particular, was brought up speaking te reo, was capable of gaining qualifications and had become a valued employee.
“In our view, the 15 per cent discount fairly reflects the extent to which background factors contributed to M’s offending while also recognising the offending involved serious and unprovoked violence against a young child, making principles of deterrence and denunciation particularly relevant,” the judgment said.
The appeal court justices dismissed the appeal.