As Garry William Bingle lay in his kitchen in a drug-induced stupor, his two toddlers played by the red-hot element he had used to spot cannabis.
It was just one incident in a catalogue of neglect and abuse over a number of years committed by the 46-year-old, revealed at the Dunedin District Court yesterday.
Bingle previously pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect as well as charges of threatening to kill and assaulting a female.
His partner described the period of turmoil as "a nightmare".
Judge Kevin Phillips condemned the defendant's behaviour and jailed him for two years.
"The children were defenceless, very young children, children of your blood, children who depended upon you for care, for nurture and for love, and they got seriously abused, physically assaulted and left in danger, because you were more intent on pursuing your addiction than caring for your children," he said.
Bingle would stay home to look after his sons while his partner went to work.
She would come home to find the man passed out as the children ran wild, the court heard.
Documents showed Bingle developed a dislike for his older son after the boy's sibling
"The defendant would abuse [him] in particular derogatory terms, calling him dumb and stupid, as well as swearing at him," a summary stated.
But the mistreatment ran much deeper.
Bingle would often wet his hand before smacking the older boy, which would leave a welt that lasted several hours.
The man's drug use saw him neglect the boys for long periods, particularly after spotting cannabis on the kitchen stove top.
The older son burned his feet on the element and the other scorched his fingers after Bingle left a wood-burner door open.
His basic care for the children was woefully inadequate, the court heard.
One of the boys was in a dirty nappy for so long "rock-hard" faeces was stuck to his bottom and it was left "red raw".
On other occasions, Bingle would take them to a friend's house with them wearing only a singlet - no shoes or nappies.
When his partner witnessed one of the frequent lapses, she confronted him.
"You get my kids taken off me, I'll f...ing kill you," Bingle told her.
Defence counsel Andrew Dawson accepted his client had a lengthy criminal history but argued the offending was tapering off in recent years.
Judge Phillips accepted that was the case and noted, "remarkably", that Bingle had no previous form for violence.
There were, however, four protection orders made against him.
"That speaks volumes about your relationships and your attitude to others," the judge said.
One of the children, the court heard, were already showing signs of mirroring the violence inflicted upon him.
The impact the trauma might have on the boys' future was "indescribable", Judge Phillips said.
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz
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