A babysitter found guilty of recklessly killing a 1-year-old baby in her care has today been jailed for five years.
A jury found Fijian-Indian Shayal Upashna Sami, 21, responsible for the death of Aaliyah Ashlyn Chand on January 6, 2015, at her one-bedroom Worcester St flat after a two-week trial last month at the High Court in Christchurch.
Sami said the child fell off a couch during an "unwitnessed accident" and the jury accepted that she didn't intend to kill her.
Aaliyah died in intensive care about 8.30pm the following day. Her parents, Dev Chand and Anjani Lata, were at her bedside.
Today, Aaliyah's parents told Sami that her actions have put them through "unbearable pain" and "you have left us serving a life sentence".
They remembered a happy, quiet-natured daughter who sucked her thumb "which made her really cute".
"Her presence filled our home like a princess in the palace," said Lata in an emotional victim impact statement.
Aaliayah's death left them hurt, heartbroken, and with so many unanswered questions, which they fear will continue forever.
"Nothing in our life has been the same since that day. A big part of our hearts is gone," Lata said.
"Shayal, we put you in a position of trust and you failed us. And you failed Aaliyah."
Justice Rachel Dunningham thanked the devastated parents this morning for displaying "great courage and dignity" by speaking at Sami's sentencing hearing.
The judge also said they emerged during trial as dedicated and conscientious parents who could have done nothing to avoid the tragedy.
Defence counsel Jonathan Eaton QC said that although it was rare for children to die from such accidents, experts agreed it can happen.
But Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh said the baby's fatal injuries - two skull fractures, bleeding in the cranial cavity and eyes, as well as extensive bruising on her face, forehead and ears - didn't match the babysitter's story.
Aggravating features of the case, Zarifeh said, were the "very considerable force" that was required to inflict the horrific injuries and the breach of trust involved.
Aaliyah was totally reliant on Sami and unable to defend herself, he said.
The Crown accepted it involved a "momentary loss of temper or control".
Sami steadfastly maintains she had nothing to do with the child's death, Eaton said today.
Sami, who was an 18-year old new immigrant to Christchurch at the time of Aaliyah's death, and excited about setting up a new life and her pregnancy, has also suffered from the tragedy, he said.
Since her arrest, her newborn daughter has been sent to Fiji and the court heard that Sami will be deported to Fiji once she is released from prison.
A pre-sentence report says Sami does not comprehend that she's been found guilty of the killing, or exactly what a prison sentence will entail.
But the report states she is clearly devastated by events.
Justice Dunningham noted that Sami was generally a person of good character who had previously looked after children in various settings with no previous problems. She has no criminal history.
Sami was given discounts for her previous good character, her youth, and the fact she had spent nearly three years on bail.
The Crown did not seek a minimum period of imprisonment and Sami was jailed for five years.