A mother who drunkenly turned a blind eye to the possibility her children were being sexually abused will remain in prison.
She yesterday took her case to the High Court at Wellington to appeal against her prison sentence, saying she should have received home detention instead, but the appeal was today dismissed.
The Gisborne woman was given a two-year-and-one-month prison sentence earlier this year for neglect that left her children wearing soiled clothing, going without food, and missing out on medical treatment.
The four children, aged between 21 months and 6 years at the time of the offending, were in their mother's care until early 2013 and mid-2014, after which they went to live with relatives or in foster homes.
According to the summary of facts, the defendant, who has name suppression to protect the victims' identities, had a high dependency on alcohol and was often away from her children at parties all night, as well as during the day sometimes.
"The defendant variously described herself as being drunk every second day, and drunk more than she was sober," the summary said.
"She said she can't remember a lot of what went on in her household ... because of the [drunken] state she was in."
Sometimes she would leave the children in the care of other family members, including those who were also drinking to excess.
Other times, the woman left her 6-year-old daughter in charge of the younger children for hours without any supervision, expecting the child to prepare food for her siblings and a bottle for her baby sister.
Meanwhile, the woman spent most of her benefit money on cigarettes and alcohol, leaving only about $30-50 per week for all other household items for herself and the children.
She prepared meals for the children three or four times a fortnight, expecting her mother, who she lived with at the time, to provide for the children when there was a shortfall.
Childcare professionals at the kindergarten the two youngest girls attended reported the children were hungry, dirty and smelly.
They said the girls wore soiled clothing, and suffered from unresolved medical issues.
One had a "putrid" discharge coming from her ear that remained untreated despite repeated attempts by staff to encourage the mother to get her medical attention.
The staff also reported the girls often behaved inappropriately or sexually, particularly with men, and were suffering from swollen, red genital areas.
At home, the mother frequently found her father in the children's' bedroom after he had been drinking.
"She thought it was 'weird' and she was concerned about it, but, other than telling him to leave [the room], she didn't do anything else about it," the summary said.
The eldest daughter regularly asked her mother why their grandfather kept going into the room and why the mother couldn't make him "get out", and asked if she could put a lock on the door.
"The defendant, through her drunken haze, thought her daughter was being annoying, told her to go to her room, and ignored what she was being told or asked.
"The defendant, on reflection, thinks that her daughter could have been being [sexually] 'touched' by a family member or members, but said that she ignored what was going on around her because of the [drunken] state she was in at the time."
Neither of the older two children liked having baths, and both complained to their mother that their genital areas were sore.
The mother pleaded guilty earlier this year to four representative counts of child neglect and one representative charge of failing to protect her child from sexual assault, as well as some driving-related charges.
Her lawyer appeared in the High Court at Wellington by audio visual link from Gisborne yesterday.
She argued the woman should have received a home detention sentence, saying the sentencing judge failed to give her enough credit for "mitigating factors", including remorse. She also said the discount for the defendant's guilty plea was "wrongly applied".
A cultural report provided to the court before the sentence identified the woman had herself suffered physical violence and sexual abuse while growing up, and said she never received the fundamental life skills needed to become a competent adult and live a productive life.
Her lawyer at the time said these issues likely had links to "post-colonisation trauma".
Crown lawyer Juliette Irwin said the discounts received were appropriate, and that the primary concern the Crown had with regards to home detention was the "appropriateness" of the proposed property.
Justice Peter Churchman today released his decision, saying the sentencing judge did not err in applying the discounts. He said if the judge had reached a lower prison term, home detention would still not have been an appropriate option.
He dismissed the appeal.