Warning: Some readers may find this article distressing

For almost 10 months, the five children were beaten, neglected, abused and starved until their teachers reported their black eyes and bruises to the police.

Some of the "hidings" were because the children - aged 8, 6, 5, 3, and 1-year-old - had eaten food, climbed a tree or used hair gel.

Teresa Kataina was today jailed for more than two years for being the "main abuser" while the children's father was sentenced to two years, which will be converted to home detention.

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During sentencing at the Manukau District Court it came to light the children were living with their father because they had been removed from their mother's care.

As Judge Gregory Hikaka read the harrowing details of what the defendants did to the young victims, Kataina burst into tears and collapsed to the floor of the dock.

Her wailing interrupted proceedings and as she was led out of the courtroom, she sobbed: "I'm sorry, I can't. I'm so sorry."

THE ABUSE

Kataina and the children's father, who has name suppression to protect the children's identities, began a relationship around Christmas 2013. A week later, on the first day of 2014, the abuse started in their Mangere Bridge home.

The court heard how the handles were removed from the children's bedroom doors so they couldn't leave by themselves.

They were forced to spend long periods of time locked up alone while their caregivers smoked weed and meth or watched movies downstairs.

Sometimes, the 1-year-old left her room, so Kataina gave her "a hiding" by hitting her on the backside.

Other times, two of the children were locked in a wardrobe and went a whole day without food.

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According to the facts of the case going without food was a common punishment - if the children misbehaved, they would miss out on dinner, and sometimes breakfast as well.

They were always so hungry, teachers at the three eldest children's school would make them sandwiches and give them fruit daily.

But if Kataina found out the children had eaten when they told her they hadn't, she hit them repeatedly and denied them dinner, breakfast or both.

As well as being starved and neglected, the children were beaten repeatedly on a weekly or sometimes daily basis, with the defendants' hands, or with weapons like spoons or other utensils.

The eldest children bore the brunt of the beatings.

Kataina once lost her temper with the 6-year-old and slammed her head into a wall at least twice, leaving a hole.

Another time, the 33-year-old thought the girl had taken some of her jewellery, so took her to her bedroom and slapped her repeatedly around her head and body.

The father shoved the 8-year-old's head into the wall and floor of a bedroom about 20 times, as well as hitting it numerous times.

And Kataina often lost her temper with the 3-year-old, once because he'd used Dax Wax gel in his hair, so she grabbed him by the ears and pulled him up to her neck level.

She threatened to hang him from the clothesline by his ears, and once both caregivers taped him to it by his arms and hands.

"When the child victims were hit by the defendants ... they were never hit just once, they would be hit repeatedly and hard, sometimes for minutes at a time," the court documents said.

Kataina was identified as the "main abuser", hitting them regularly and yelling encouragement to her partner when he hit them, telling him to hit them harder.

Some of the beatings were because they'd climbed a tree and broken a branch, gone down the road with a family friend, denied eating food, or got a sibling a paracetamol.

As a result all the children had bruising and red marks over their bodies, with the eldest two also suffering black eyes, scratches and dizziness.

After teachers reported the injuries on October 29, 2014, the man admitted disciplining the children by smacking their hands or kicking them in the bum. Kataina denied assaulting any of the children.

They continued to deny the charges until the day of trial last year when they finally admitted their offending after negotiations with the Crown.

THE SENTENCE

Kataina

1 x ill treatment or neglect of a child
4 x assault with intent to injure
4 x assault with a weapon
5 x assault on a child

Judge Hikaka said the 33-year-old had shown a "gross abuse of trust", with the abuse beginning just a week after she started a relationship with the children's father.

The judge said an aggravating feature was the "cruelty" of the abuse, in particular taping one of the boys to the clothesline, as well as the violence, the use of weapons, abuse of trust and the extent of harm.

The children were now showing signs of being violent towards each other, which was a "typical example of the continuation of the cycle of abuse".

Judge Hikaka accepted there were "discreet issues pertinent" to Kataina, including that she suffered from depression and anxiety, and said, given her breakdown in court, would require careful monitoring.

But after giving discounts for her guilty plea and personal mitigating circumstances, Judge Hikaka said he was unable to reach a sentence which could be converted to home detention.

She was jailed for two and a half years.

The father

3 x assault with intent to injure
2 x assault with a weapon
6 x assault on a child

Judge Hikaka said it was clear the children wanted to have their father in their lives, so it was important the man had access to support programmes.

"For the children, they need to be kept safe and they need to have a process which will see them have time with their father but in a safe environment."

However, Judge Hikaka deemed the address the defendant put forward for home detention unsuitable, and ruled he would be incarcerated until another house could be found.

The judge sentenced the man to 23 months, which could be transferred to an electronically monitored sentence once another address was found.

Child, Youth and Family have been approached for a response.