Court of Appeal decision likely to be final chapter in the tragic death of Isaiah Neil.

A grandmother twice convicted of the manslaughter of her infant grandson - who died after being left in a car on a hot day while she smoked synthetic cannabis - has failed to get her prison sentence reduced.

Isaiah Neil was 8 months old when he died at his grandparents' home in Ruatoki on November 2, 2015.

He died from heatstroke after being left in a hot car for several hours while his mother Lacey Te Whetu and grandmother, Donna Parangi, smoked synthetic cannabis.

Te Whetu and Shane Neil, Isaiah's father, pleaded guilty to manslaughter but Parangi denied any criminal responsibility.

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Neil failed to call 111 after finding his son lifeless in the car, so was considered less culpable and received a sentence of home detention.

Te Whetu was sentenced to three years in prison in 2017, the same as her mother Parangi who was convicted of manslaughter after a jury trial.

This conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal, although Parangi was again found guilty of manslaughter by a second jury at a retrial earlier this year.

This time, Parangi was sentenced to 2 years 6 months in prison by Justice Sally Fitzgerald.

The judge adopted a starting point of 3 years 8 months, then cut the sentence by 14 months on account of Parangi's previous good character, health, as well as compassionate and cultural reasons.

Her defence lawyer Sue Grey appealed Justice Fitzgerald's sentence, saying the starting point was too high compared to other similar cases. But this was rejected by the Court of Appeal in a decision released today.

Shane Neil, Donna Parangi and Lacey Te Whetu in the High Court at Rotorua for the manslaughter of baby Isaiah Neil. Photo / Stephen Parker.
Shane Neil, Donna Parangi and Lacey Te Whetu in the High Court at Rotorua for the manslaughter of baby Isaiah Neil. Photo / Stephen Parker.

"To conclude, the critical features of this case are that Ms Parangi made a decision to leave Isaiah in a car, in the sun and decided to smoke the synthetic cannabis without first making sure Isaiah was safe," Justice Mary Peters wrote in the Court of Appeal ruling.

"At the time she made this latter decision, Ms Parangi knew that she would be incapacitated thereafter, and she had no reason to expect that anyone else would ensure Isaiah's safety."

The decision of the Court of Appeal today is likely to end the long-running case.

A Herald investigation in 2017 revealed there were 10 "reports of concern" for Isaiah and his siblings to Child Youth & Family (now known as Oranga Tamariki) over the three years before his death.

Three of those specifically mentioned their mother's addiction to synthetic cannabis, but languished for three months without progress before his death in November 2015.

This is because social workers at the Whakatane office were taking "shortcuts" to meet deadlines.

Staff were routinely opening "assessment" records when safety concerns were raised about children, even if the assessment was not completed.

This was to meet internal performance timeframes, but often meant there was no urgency for social workers to finish the safety assessment.

"Unfortunately, these shortcuts become 'normal practice' very quickly and there was resistance by some to return to best practice," the author of a review document wrote.

Staff at the Whakatane site were told in September 2015 to stop opening assessment records early and clear the backlog of cases.

But this was too late for Isaiah Neil.

"It is clear our practice could have been better and should have been better," the review concludes.

"It may not have prevented Isaiah's death but we will not have any opportunities to get it right for him again."

Isaiah Neil was just 8 months old when he died inside a hot car in November 2015. Photo / Supplied
Isaiah Neil was just 8 months old when he died inside a hot car in November 2015. Photo / Supplied