A West Coast caregiver who belatedly admitted causing the death of a toddler after shaking it so violently in frustration that the child immediately went blind and resulted in severe brain injuries, was yesterday jailed for five and a half years.

The caregiver appeared before Justice Williams for sentencing in the High Court in Greymouth.

Justice Williams made a continued order for interim name suppression, including details of the caregiver's relationship to the child and other factors which might lead to their identification, and that of the child, until the outcome of another court case is known.

The jailed caregiver is due to defend the other charge, also suppressed, in a court hearing due to begin in Christchurch on April 11.


Last month in the High Court at Greymouth the caregiver pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in relation to the child's death after the Crown vacated an earlier murder charge by agreement.

Yesterday, the Crown submitted a sentencing starting point of seven to eight years jail for the caregiver, based on similar cases.

The caregiver's defence lawyer Marcus Zintl submitted that the defendant at the time of the incident was "overwhelmed" and "ill equipped" to deal with a crying child who would not settle.

The defendant was remorseful and the sentence starting point should be between five-and-half and six years, Zintl submitted.

Substantial victim impact statements were read to the court about the life-changing effects of the toddler's death, including prolonged grief, the effect on other children and an overwhelming loss for the family.

Deep anger at the potential of a young life cut short was also read out in the court.
Those included statements from relatives directly related to the child reading in person their statements, and directly addressing their feelings to the caregiver prior to judgment.

The caregiver was allowed to sit in the dock for much of the sentencing submission and was impassive throughout.

The media was granted permission to photograph the defendant for future publication when the interim suppression orders related to the case are lifted, but when ordered to stand for sentence the caregiver covered their face.

- Greymouth Star