Parenting educator Dame Lesley Max says a judge got it wrong by not jailing a teenage dad who broke his baby's legs five times.

Hastings man James Robert Hall, now 20, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to his baby daughter between her birth in November 2010 and March last year, when she was taken to hospital with multiple injuries.

Justice Mary Peters sentenced him to one year's home detention when he appeared in the High Court at Napier this week.

Dame Lesley, whose Great Potentials Foundation runs the "Hippy" programme for parents of preschoolers, felt Hall should have been jailed.


"The judiciary has a part to play here, too, and the message sent by this sentence is this was a fairly trivial and easily forgivable series of offences, and I don't think that is the way the public sees it at all."

Dame Lesley said the case backed up a submission she made to the Government calling for "mother and father coaching" to be part of the contracts of midwives and other lead maternity carers.

Hall admitted to police he had bent his baby's leg back behind her neck, and at other times had clutched her tightly. He said he was having problems coping and bonding with the infant.

Each charge carried a maximum penalty of seven years' jail, but the judge set three years and three months as a starting point. She deducted 20 per cent for Hall's youth and a further 25 per cent because he admitted guilt.

She settled on one year's home detention so he could complete his painting and decorating apprenticeship and be able to support his daughter financially.